When one of your co-workers who’s an old friend and an ex-lover to boot asks you to take a look, in your expert capacity, at her troubled 17-year-old, you can’t very well say no. So Dr. Peter Zak, of Boston’s Pearce Psychiatric Institute, agrees to conduct an informal conversation with Dr. Channing Temple’s daughter Olivia—no mean feat in itself—and promptly endorses her mother’s suspicion that the girl’s gotten hooked on the Ritalin that her therapist, Dr. Daphne Smythe-Gooding, Channing’s longtime mentor, prescribed. Peter doesn’t realize, even after he overhears a conversation in which Channing reminds Pearce colleague Dr. Liam Jensen that “a man is dead,” that Channing’s in considerably greater danger than her daughter, and that there’s nothing he can do to stop her from getting shot to death, a dazed Olivia standing over her holding the murder weapon. The revelations that follow—swirling by turn around Daphne, Channing’s alcoholic husband Drew, and Pearce bean-counter Dr. Arnold Destler—will cut to the heart of Peter’s comfortable assumptions about Channing’s family history and personal ethics; the sinister role trials of experimental drugs play in his clinic’s finances; and the dismaying cost of recording one’s feelings about one’s patients. And since Peter has unwisely accepted Olivia’s dare in order to wean her away from Ritalin, he has to face each new jolt without caffeine.
Highly recommended for Jonathan Kellerman fans—the pseudonymous author has a particular knack for tightening the screws on one guilty-looking suspect after another—though not in the same league as Ephron’s lacerating debut (Amnesia, 2000).