British journalist/ghostwriter Robotham’s first novel is a masterful riff on I Confess with a psychologist substituting for the embattled priest.
Professor Joe O’Laughlin is shocked to hear about the murder of Catherine Mary McBride, the Liverpool nurse he’d treated for self-mutilation who responded by coming on to him and crying rape. He’s even more disturbed when he realizes that one of his current patients, Bobby Moran, fits DI Vincent Ruiz’s description of the sadistic killer. Bobby’s nightmares and violent behavior, together with compelling circumstantial evidence, make Joe itch to share his suspicions with Ruiz despite his secular priesthood’s promise of confidentiality, and eventually he gives in. But it’s already too late: Ruiz, pointing to baffling discrepancies in Joe’s description of Bobby and Joe’s lack of alibi for the fatal night, arrests Joe for murder. So far, so predictable—especially the hoary reason Joe can’t say where he was when Catherine was killed. When Joe turns detective in order to save his skin, however, his narrative takes off, for he’s both desperate and drastically competent, fully a match for the demon bent on destroying his livelihood, his family, his home and his life.
Readers will forget their own jobs, meals and families while they race to find out which one of his targets the killer actually hits before he’s brought down.