The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

This was another present bought for me, and another cover and title that intrigued me. I don't often pick up murder mystery thrillers so it was a really nice change to come across this book. It has also been mentioned on Richard and Judy's book club.

Diana, a very successful and talented surgeon who runs a contraversial abortion clinic, is found dead at home, and it looks like murder. We are taken into the lives of the people who knew her and the two detectives assigned to the case, exploring the investigation in present time and also in flash back, building up a picture of what happened to Diana and why she died.

The central characters, and whose view we visit the most, are, naturally, Megan her daughter, Huck, the younger detective and Diana herself, although there are quite a few others relevent to the story. Megan is a free spirited and confidant girl of nineteen, indulged by her parents since the death of her young brother who had Down's Syndrome. She has been brought up to think for herself, and she does, sometimes a little selfishly but also showing unexpected levels of maturity too. Huck, the detective, is twenty six, has a nose for crime, but seems to be drifting within his personal life, despite having a girlfriend he is comfortable with and who loves him. Then there is Diana, who outwardly seemed strong and in control, dealing with a stressful job by believing in a woman's choice to 'reset her button' regardless of the personal circumstances that led to the unwanted pregnancy. Diana deals with the emotion and the controversy (protestors and death threats) with a determined and professional air, while inwardly she struggles with a compromised family, her son's death, her decision to have him in the first place, and her husbands disagreement, plus the strain of constantly justifying her chosen career.

There are several possibilities as to how she ended up dead in their new pool, suicide or accident included. There are also several people on the suspect list for the detectives to pick around. Diana had heated arguments with her husband and her daughter on her last day, as well as a meeting with her most vehement opposer, the Rev. Stephen O'Connell, the leader of an anti abortion movement, plus an abortion that went wrong and also contact from an obsessive ex-boyfriend of Megan's. There are plenty of skillful sub plots that all have their own place around the main core of the story.

The language is very straight forward and easy to read. It is uncomplicated and there is very little word play or lyricism. It is made interesting with observations and contemporary details, that make this an up-to-the-minute thriller which is pretty slick in its execution and therefore very recognisable. Those who love complicated thrillers with lots of twists and turns, may feel a bit short changed with this one. The eventual conclusion is given very readily, although quite late on, and is not that surprising. For anyone who likes character studies however, this is for them and it helpfully replays Diana's last awful day in its entirety so that we can leave the book with satisfaction. This is not a book that plays with ambiguity.

There is quite a bit of exploration regarding abortion issues, as you can imagine, giving interesting opinions for both sides without ever forcing anything either way. I feel it does not get bogged down with this, providing enough of an insight into a highly emotive subject to provide a sound base for a mystery of this sort. There are, however, some images that are alluded to that may be too much for readers with sensitivities in that area.

I enjoyed this book as an insight into the complexities of peoples lives, which are only exposed after a huge tragedy or other drama that forces them out. I liked following the people in it, how they interacted to find out who was responsible. Its only weakness to me was the portrayal of the husband, which was a little weak, and there is very little mention of any grief, after such a massive tragedy. These are reasonably small niggles. It is because it concentrated more on their lives and gave less precedence to the mechanics of the murder that I got more from it. It was like stumbling across a really good late night movie that you become engrossed in, and are glad that you watched. I feel it would make a good holiday read for that reason, and there are lots of issues for readers groups to get their teeth into.

If you would like a reading group guide then click on this link...


Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I've seen this book a couple of times and the title intrigued me. Thanks for the I have a better idea of the content!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Oh, and you've also been tagged for the "7 Random Facts Tag - Book Edition" by A Reader's Respite! Come over to see your instructions. ;)

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