The Body Reader by Anne Frasier
For three years, Detective Jude Fontaine was kept from the outside world. Held in an underground cell, her only contact was with her sadistic captor, and reading his face was her entire existence. Learning his every line, every movement, and every flicker of thought is what kept her alive.
After her experience with isolation and torture, she is left with a fierce desire for justice—and a heightened ability to interpret the body language of both the living and the dead. Despite colleagues’ doubts about her mental state, she resumes her role at Homicide. Her new partner, Detective Uriah Ashby, doesn’t trust her sanity, and he has a story of his own he’d rather keep hidden. But a killer is on the loose, murdering young women, so the detectives have no choice: they must work together to catch the madman before he strikes again. And no one knows madmen like Jude Fontaine.
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
For three years, Detective Jude Fontaine was kept under lock, in the dark, abused and malnourished, at the hands of her unknown abductor. With no contact with any other human being than that man, her survival reflexes made her learn to “read” him, in order to stay alive. After she seizes an opportunity to escape, she realises she has retained this ability to “read” other people, booth the living and the dead: even a frozen corpse will still “talk” to her, in its expression, the way its fists are closed, and so on. As she’s trying to go back to her former career as a cop, Jude understands she can use this newfound skill to make things right.
Excellent idea, but one that I thought wasn’t exploited enough throughout the story: we are made to see June “read” her new partner first, then “read” a corpse, yet nothing much happens in that regard after that, and it’s like the body-reading concept got lost along the way, along a more “traditional” thriller story. This was rather too bad, as I would have enjoyed seeing more of Jude’s ability, things that would truly set her apart from “just yet another very talented cop”.
Another problem I had with the story was the moments when Jude tried to figure out how to go back to a normal life, or even if she could: a new flat, maybe getting back with her boyfriend, her tense relationship with her family… All interesting things, but presented in too descriptive a way, rendered too flat: I didn’t “feel” her predicament, I simply read about it, and it just wasn’t the same. I felt more connected to Uriah, who had his own emotional struggles to contend with, but here too the whole thing was more descriptive, not vibrant enough.
Finally, the ending was too neatly wrapped, too quickly, without the kind of intensity I’d expect from the last chapters of a thriller. I could also sense the places where the story was trying to mislead me, yet at the same time the lack of involvement (or, should I rather say, the sideline involvement) of some characters gave a few things away.
I did like, though, how Jude, even though toughened and emotionally withdrawn, went about getting back control of her life by doing something useful, like picking up cold cases, and how the author didn’t fall into the typical trappings of adding some romantic twist in there. Sure, there’s the boyfriend, but this side plot is never presented as an end in itself, never touted as “Jude’s salvation in the arms of a man”, or whatever similar tripe. In the same vein, Jude and Uriah give off a definite “work partners and perhaps friends someday” vibe, not a “and perhaps lovers someday” one.
2 stars: I quite liked some of the themes here, but this remains an “OK” book and nothing more, because it fell flat for me, and because its ideas weren’t developed enough compared to what the blurb had made me expect.