A laudable mystery that starts tangled and slowly unravels—with not one but two twists at the end.

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Schizo: Hidden in Plain Sight

From the The Schizo Series series , Vol. 1

A man wrongly convicted of murder feigns a mental disorder, giving him time in a psychiatric facility to concoct a scheme for clearing his name, in this debut thriller.

Medical student Dan Greenberg’s rotation at the Northwest Indiana Psychiatric Institution is a far cry from where he ends up—as a resident. When it’s clear that the evidence against him for his girlfriend Melinda Baum’s murder will guarantee Dan a prison sentence, he opts for convincing everyone that he’s a schizophrenic. He’s at the facility for a year before seeing a way out: college friend/medical student Sheri. Using secret correspondence, beginning with napkin notes written in crayon, Dan asks for Sheri’s help. Flashbacks, meanwhile, reveal the days leading up to Melinda’s murder. Dan’s assignment is to diagnose schizoaffective patient Catherine, whose ramblings about people in trouble at various hospitals stoke Dan’s curiosity. Catherine may even be predicting some of these, citing room numbers prior to the admissions. Cat scans of patients Catherine’s named show an irregularity, or an artifact, that’s oddly in an identical spot for each person. Viewing an autopsy, Dan quickly swipes an artifact (a small metal ball), which he then stashes. But soon his mail vanishes, someone seems to be tailing him, and people he’s confided in, including Melinda, turn up dead. Institutionalized Dan, Sheri, and fellow patient Jake formulate a plan of escape to prove Dan’s innocence. The story smoothly alternates between present day and past, generating suspense, for example, with the knowledge of Melinda’s imminent doom. The flashbacks eventually catch up and, on occasion, unnecessarily rehash the plot, like Dan telling his story (which readers already know) to cops, a lawyer, and his parents. But Benator piles on the mystery: Dan and Jake find a professor to examine and hopefully shed light on the metal ball and later track down the person(s) possibly responsible for Dan’s predicament. Characters are engaging all around, with Jake a standout. He may also have pled insane to avoid jail and yet never denies having killed four family members while on a cocktail of psychedelic drugs.  

A laudable mystery that starts tangled and slowly unravels—with not one but two twists at the end.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944781-41-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Waldorf Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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