FRANTIC - Katherine Howell

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Ella Marconi
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Book Synopsis

Sophie Phillips is a paramedic based in the central Sydney area. Her husband, Chris, is a police officer.  Both are besotted with their ten month old son, Lachlan. Life is perfect for Sophie until Chris is seriously assaulted one night while on duty. He hasn’t been the same since.  He’s become introspective and short-tempered and Sophie is beginning to worry about whether their marriage has a future.

Book Review

Sophie Phillips is a paramedic and her husband Chris is a cop.  When Sophie and her paramedic partner are called to a premature labour case, the results of the early labour are tragic, and despite Sophie and Mick being very sure they have done the right thing, the baby's father - Boyd Sawyer is grief stricken and irrational - and he goes out of his way to threaten Sophie and Mick.  Meanwhile Sophie and Chris's previously happy marriage has been fading recently.  Chris was badly assaulted during a recent arrest and ever since then he's been increasingly moody and distant.  Whilst all of this is going on, there is a band of armed robbers raiding banks throughout Sydney and they are becoming increasingly violent, with the latest raid a bank guard is shot dead.
How would you cope if you're doing your job, and things go desperately wrong.  If you're suddenly threatened, how would you react when your own ten-month-old son Lachlan is kidnapped from your house and your husband is shot in the head - lucky to be still alive.  Would you blame yourself and wonder if those threats are behind your son's disappearance?  Would you blame your husband who has been acting oddly, and with the stench of police corruption all around you?  Worse still, would both of you be able to sort out your own fears and guilt and work together to find your son?
FRANTIC takes the reader down some unexpected pathways.  For a start there's a police procedural element with Detective Ella Marconi working on trying to find baby Lachlan with the police team assigned to the case.  But equally in the readers focus is the experience of the paramedic within the confines of a crime, accident or simply human misadventure or misery.  Sophie's own reactions to the kidnapping of her son, her own pursuit, her frantic (hence the name of the novel) attempts to find her boy, to deal with the shooting of her husband, to cope with her guilt are stark and well drawn.  She thinks the most likely kidnapper for her son is the father from the earlier, disastrous ambulance call-out.  She's also feeling very guilty about a one night stand with the man that she's turned to for help in finding Lachlan - her husband Chris's police partner Angus.   Chris is dealing with his own feelings of guilt - he wakes up in hospital after surgery to remove a bullet from his head, and he is worried, very very worried, that the reason for Lachlan's kidnapping is connected to something corrupt in the police force that he knows a lot more about than he's let on.
The author of FRANTIC is a paramedic herself, and that perspective of a crime scene, an accident scene, an investigation is very unique - and it's written in a very accessible manner.  It brings a refreshing perspective from the participants, at the same time that FRANTIC covers the reaction of a family or victim to the events that surround that crime.  And there's definitely a distinct feeling of frenzy about FRANTIC.  The pace of the book starts from page one and it doesn't let up until the end - mirroring the life of a paramedic firstly where they move case by case at breakneck speed, then the reaction of a frantic mother, desperate to find her son, unable to sit and wait.
Combine the unusual and well handled perspective of the paramedic, with a fast paced, tightly told thriller, and a brave and well executed finale to the story and FRANTIC was a great book - you know you're onto something good when you start a book on Saturday afternoon, finish it on Sunday night and feel somewhat disappointed that the next book - PANIC - won't be available until 2008.

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