This review was originally posted at Reactions to Reading in July 2010
At a prophetically named upscale Sydney restaurant an elderly woman is dining with her son when she bursts into flames for no discernible reason. The restaurant’s manager, former cop Troy Berrigan, does his best to help but the woman later dies of her injuries. Other incidents which may, or may not, be connected start happening across the city. Jill Jackson is studying for her Master’s degree and is on vacation from her job as a Detective with the Police Force but is drawn into the investigation at first because her boyfriend is leading it and then because the case becomes personal.
WATCH THE WORLD BURN is the perfect example of a suspenseful police procedural mixed with a psychological thriller. There were enough disparate threads to keep me interested in who has done what and what will be done next but not too many that I lost track. Some threads allowed me to build up a picture of intriguing characters while others offered momentary snapshots but all of them kept me turning pages. In fact the shorter passages, such as the one where a woman hands out leaflets on a train station before coming to a sticky end, are really superb short stories within the larger tale and I really enjoyed these vignettes. It’s hard to talk much more about the plot without giving away huge spoilers but there were not many moments in which the story took me where I thought it would and that is always a satisfying experience as a reader.
As I’ve found with all of the books in this series the characters also standout and demonstrate Giarratano’s eye for observation of human behaviour (she is a practicing clinical psychologist). Jill Jackson has had some pretty astonishing personal problems in her life (these are briefly recapped here for those who haven’t read the previous books) but as Watch the World Burn opens she is more confident and happier than she has been before and it’s nice to see this kind of character growth. Quite realistically though she is not ‘all better in an instant’ and the personal trauma that she experiences in this book does force her to deal with her psychological issues in a more structured way than she has in the past and this entire thread has a very credible feel to it. There are other deft creations too including a terrific middle-aged woman who uses humour to help her through her marriage break-up and Troy Berrigan who is also under pressure because he has guardianship of his younger siblings and struggles to maintain some control over their lives.
The one thing missing from this book that I’ve loved about the others was a detailed picture of the ‘bad guy’. Here we only get brief snapshots of the evil-doer which would usually be fine but I must admit to a somewhat guilty pleasure in reading Giarratano’s excellent dark characters in the past. Even so, it’s a thoroughly entertaining read with a nice mixture of action and reflection which will appeal to fans of the series and is also, I think, a great place to start for those new to the world of Jill Jackson.
My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Random House 
Length: 389 pages
Format: Trade Paperback