on April 25, 2011
At its core, this book has a confessional autobiographical quality, contrasting the exotic allure of serial killers and psychopaths that draws people into the study of psychology with the stark, quotidian reality of standardized protocols, objectivity and tedium that characterizes the professional practice of psychology. Psychometrics and bureaucracy give way to aesthetics, especially as captured in the seeming external fragility and delicacy of women that can mask a ruthlessness and strength of mind, inaccessible to men. As if to emphasize this last point, the male characters are for the most part weak and flawed, playing secondary instrumental roles. At the same time, a possibly excessive amount of description regarding hair, make-up, dresses and shoes somewhat detracts from the story - the word tulle appears too many times for my liking.
In places, the narrative seems clinical and detached, and the course of events is rather predictable. However, this is a well-written, well-paced, economical piece of story-telling that balances the historical with the contemporary and the horrific with the beautiful.
on July 11, 2012
I found this novel quite gripping. The narrative weaves together "diary" entries from the Countess Bathory, a 16th-century Hungarian noblewoman thought to have tortured and killed hundreds of servant girls, with the modern perspective of Danica, a forensic psychologist. Danica struggles with the complex relationships in her life - to her disappointing boyfriend, to her mysterious friend Maria, and to the shadowy figure of Elizabeth of Batory (with whom Danica is fascinated) - while attempting to understand a psychiatric patient under her care who is accused of murdering a young girl in Bathory's honour. The novel comes to a startling, gripping conclusion in which Danica is swept into both physical and psychological danger.
Quiver traces the ways in which obsessions with beauty, quests for youth and innocence, and sadistic violence can become inextricably intertwined. The reader comes to question at what point concerns with beauty/attraction transform from bening to criminal insanity to violence. It is an intelligent twist on the classic thriller/mystery, with historical elements. I especially enjoy that it features female characters centre stage, as protagonist(s) and villain(s).
Reason for Reading: I already knew about Elizabeth Bathory and a thriller with a murder based on her crimes was one I simply *had* to read.
Elizabeth Bathory was a 16th century Hungarian Countess who tortured and murdered young women and rumour has it bathed in their blood to keep herself beautiful. No one knows how many girls she killed but figures go as high as 650.
In this book a man, Martin Foster, kills a 14 year-old girl and says it was in homage to Elizabeth Bathory. Canadian forensic psychologist, Danica, moves to England to work at the criminal hospital where the killer is being treated. She has followed his case since the day it hit the papers and is thrilled when she actually gets to start working on his team. Danica has her own thoughts on his crime though, that he may have not been working alone and that he belongs to some sort of cabal that worships the countess. At the same time, Danica receives a message from an old friend, Maria, that she also is in London. The two had a falling out several years ago when they were working together in Budapest looking for the lost diaries of Elizabeth Bathory with plans to write a book together if they found them. With Danica's strange relationships with Foster and Maria her life begins to revolve around Bathory and her clinical observations of killers may just bring her face to face with with a killer on the outside, in the real world.
I had high expectations of this book and was really looking forward to the read. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. The book is written in three points of view. The present from Danica's point of view, flashbacks to the recent past from an unknown source's point of view and excerpts from the Countess' diary. For me the book broke down with the second flashback as I figured out what the whole book was about and what the outcome would be at that point. Thus I found the rest of the book boring. Nothing really happens. There's a lot of talking and going places in the present, but no murders or crimes. The only crimes are the flashback to Foster's killing and then the diary excerpts; which are pretty gruesome reading but have no bearing on the plot, they simply are there for the violence factor. (No diaries have ever been really found.) The climax at the end is the only bit of excitement. I read the book through, though. I guess I must have found it engaging enough to do that, though I never found the book compelling or page-turning. I didn't particularly like Danica. She was weak, whiny and easily lead astray. Usually I would DNF a book like this but for some reason I read to the end. Sorry, but my final answer is ... Boring.