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The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

August 17, 2016

A brilliant and dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches – because she bears her own invisible scars. Only five years old when she watched her parents die in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But her now-accomplished life has a secret side, ruled by an insatiable desire; by night she pursues the addictive thrills of sexual trysts with strangers. And when her two worlds unexpectedly converge, Grace’s past returns with a vengeance, threatening to destroy everything she’s fought for – including her life.

 Shaken by the murder of her newest patient and fearful that an investigation will expose her double life, Grace sets out to probe the crime herself. But when she stumbles on the dead man’s true identity, a horrifying chapter from her childhood is violently reawakened, forcing Grace to confront a decades-old act of evil crying out to be avenged. Suddenly stalked by dangerous men, Grace must turn to the talent for survival she’s depended on all her life in order to face down the darkest personal demon she’s ever battled: her own.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book.  I think it’s probably the first in a series of books featuring the character Grace Blades, because Kellerman goes to great lengths to establish her, even throwing in a few unnecessary references to his best known character, Alex Delaware. You learn about her pretty squalid early years; the trailer trash couple who saw her as little more than an encumbrance who got in the way of their drinking and copulating, with accompanying violent bouts.

Grace learned early on how to make herself invisible and became a quick study, recognising when to stay out the way and when it was safe to come out and scour the trailer for something to eat. She built a mental wall around her and put up invisible barricades so that nothing of her violent childhood would penetrate. After she watched her mother kill her father and then turn the knife on herself, Grace was then placed in a number of different foster homes where again she kept herself safe by being pleasant, polite but never in the way or loud. Along the way, she taught herself from books, magazines, anything that added to the sum of her knowledge was something she eagerly devoured.

After her final foster care placement ended with the death of a woman she had grown to respect, she was rescued from the county lock up she had been placed in by Malcolm and Sophie. Malcolm was a psychologist who had known Grace in her previous foster home and had tested her and found her to be remarkably intelligent and a gifted learner. He had been bringing her books and magazines far in advance of her years and she found that being taken into their home was just what she needed. In their care she blossomed and what she felt for them was as close to love as she had ever been capable of.

Because Grace is dispassionate to an extreme. She does not form attachments and as an extremely successful psychiatrist, she is brilliant at faking the empathy she needs with her clients. Her home is austere and she feeds her sexual urges with anonymous one night stands.

This is not a heroine you are ever going to feel passionately about. Grace has become a rich and successful psychologist who takes her pleasure when she needs it – an Elektra type figure, though it remains to be seen quite where her moral compass lies.

The book alternates timelines – mixing the present day, where Grace’s tryst with a pick up in a hotel bar soon turns into something much more dangerous, with a series of flashbacks to her early life and various foster homes and the people she met along the way.

It’s a strong introduction for this character, but I think I’ll need to read more to make up my mind about whether or not Grace Blades can hold her own alongside Alex Delaware.

The Murderer’s Daughter was published in paperback by  Headline on 2nd June 2016

My thanks to Headline for a review copy which has not influenced my review.

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