If you enjoy good storytelling, you have to be reading Michael Robotham’s books. His Joe O’Loughlin thrillers have been gaining momentum since the first one was published; the latest, SAY YOU’RE SORRY, should only increase the popularity of Robotham and his creation.
Joe O’Loughlin is a retired criminal profiler who describes himself early on as “the trembling psychologist,” a darkly light-hearted reference to the Parkinson’s Disease that afflicts him. He is giving a presentation at a seminar when he finds himself reluctantly sucked back into criminal profiling, the occupation he blames for the disintegration of his marriage and, in the past, the exposure of his family to grave danger. In the current case, a farmhouse has been set afire; the husband-and-wife owners have been found murdered inside. Blame for the crimes is quickly laid at the feet of a recently terminated farmhand who admits being present at the scene but insists that he tried to save the victims, not harm them.
"If you enjoy books with ticking plot clocks, SAY YOU’RE SORRY has one that you will hear in your sleep, and every other moment you are away from it."
Meanwhile, the partially clothed body of a young woman is found frozen in a nearby pond. It is quickly determined that there is a bizarre link between the farmhouse and the unfortunate girl. Her name is Tash McBain, and she, along with another girl, has been missing for three years. Thought to be a runaway at the time of her disappearance, Tash used to live with her family in the farmhouse. With some reluctance, Joe joins the investigations into both the double murder and Tash’s puzzling end, in hopes that Piper Hadley, the other young woman who went missing with Tash all those years ago, is still alive. What neither Joe nor the authorities know (though the reader does) is that Piper is indeed on this side of the veil, held captive by a mysterious abductor who, following Tash’s escape, has become even more dangerous and unstable than he was before.
Joe brings his friend, Vincent Ruiz, into the mix. Vincent is a former detective inspector who crashed and burned but still retains the skill set that made him a successful investigative closer. Brilliant, dangerous and unpredictable, he is the dark side to Joe’s light in the investigation, which races against time not only to apprehend a multiple murderer but also to possibly save a girl who has long been missing.
If you enjoy books with ticking plot clocks, SAY YOU’RE SORRY has one that you will hear in your sleep, and every other moment you are away from it. The narrative alternates between Joe and the still-alive-for-the-moment Piper, who may or may not make it to the end. If you haven’t read Robotham before, this is a good place to start. For me, the book and series bring to mind another favorite of mine: the long-running Dr. Alan Gregory series from Stephen White. In a number of ways, Joe is Alan’s British counterpart, though each character is quite discernible from the other. Given that White is concluding his series in the coming year, lovers of psychological thrillers will find Robotham’s work an excellent way to fill the void and create a new hunger at the same time.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 26, 2012