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 An Ohio Supreme Court justice delivers a disturbing first novel about accusations of juvenile sex abuse and the problems that may result from the testimony of very young victims, members of the victims' families, and their expert advocates. There is no doubt that something bad has happened to seven- year-old Charles King. The blood found in the boy's underclothes by his mother has led to a medical examination and the discovery of trauma associated with sexual penetration. What is in doubt is precisely what happened and who did it. The extraordinarily bright little boy seems to prefer that the matter be forgotten and no accusations be made. But his mother, a monstrously ambitious socialite, hands him into the care of Dr. Hartentells, a child psychiatrist whose assumptions and anatomically correct dolls lead smoothly to the accusation of abuse at the hands of teen-ager Howard Landis, Charles's next-door neighbor and sometime babysitter. The case seems sound. Howard's friendship for Charles has been more than brotherly, and a search of his possessions has turned up damning evidence. But Charles, whose own narrative present much of the story, recants the accusation early on. No one, however, believes him. His parents are too busy warring with each other to get to the bottom of the story; the prosecutor for the state is certain that he has a career-making case; the child psychiatrist is incapable of seeing beyond her own theories; and the case comes to trial with predictably tragic results. This thoughtful examination of a legal dilemma is flawed by the device of the young victim's first-person narrative, tricky enough in the hands of a more experienced writer, and by the outlandish excesses of the victim's mother, a woman who makes Joan Crawford look like a piker.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1991
ISBN: 1-55611-259-9
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991