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In Greg Iles' Blood Memory, forensic odontologist Cat Ferry is losing her sanity. After several panic attacks, Cat is suspended while investigating the case of a serial killer. Plagued by nightmares, depression, alcoholism, and an unplanned pregnancy, Cat retreats to her family estate in Mississippi. Instead of sanctuary she discovers a frightening family secret. The murder investigations become intertwined with her own family history and Cat's investigations turn into a fight to save her sanity and her life.

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Dr. Judy Ustina
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Greg Iles did an excellent job researching childhood sexual abuse. In Cat Ferry’s adult life, she is surrounding herself with people that represent what her childhood was like growing up – lies, deception, and all that darkness. It’s the dynamic of the sexually abused family played out on a larger field.

Ferry herself is presented as being dissociated from herself, suffering from both the childhood trauma and the manic depressive illness. I had some problems in that Iles speaks about Cat erasing thoughts, but didn’t demonstrate it. He spoke of her being disorganized, but didn’t show us. When Cat started having panic attacks, we don’t know what triggers them – was it a smell, a scent, some kind of memory? Her psyche is not shown to be quite as fractured as realistically it would be – there should be more angst, more breakdown, more pain.

Cat relates to men in a way that’s entirely consistent with a woman who has a background history of childhood abuse, including the deception, triangulation, the need for secrecy, the involvement of another woman. Her family’s behavior is also consistent: there is the perpetrator, the victim, and the deniers. Deniers carry on long past their point or their purpose because to speak out means that they were aware of the abuse and did nothing, which is an even greater shame. This happens so frequently in families that I see the deniers longer than the victims because of the part they play.

Where Iles falls short is in bringing out the ‘repressed memory syndrome’, which is kind of a blight on psychiatry. In the late 80s/early 90s, both psychiatrists and psychologists caused a lot of difficulties in having people with suggestible personality profiles create false childhood memories. On the one hand, Iles has his doctor say that there’s a lot of controversy about repressed memories, but Cat Ferry does have repressed memory syndrome. So in reality Iles is saying that it does exist, which leads me to believe that there is danger in a book like this. This is a well-researched fiction book that allows people to talk about childhood sexual abuse, but I wouldn’t want anybody to read this and start creating childhood memories of sexual abuse.

Other reviews by Dr. Judy Ustina:
He Who Fears the Wolf