Dr. David Rothberg was a hotshot resident at Bellevue who could have had his pick of psychiatric jobs. When, for reasons of his own, he picks New York’s underfunded Vanderkill Prison, his boss, Dr. Benjamin Caldwell, wastes no time in tossing him in with the sharks: suicidal depressives, schizophrenics, garden-variety fakes, and Victor Thomas Janko. The Baby Carriage Killer, who, 15 years ago, pleaded guilty to slashing Agnes Rivera to death in front of her toddler daughter, is coming up for his first parole hearing, and overworked Caldwell, who’s barely met Janko, wants David to testify. Stung equally by Caldwell’s animus against the model prisoner, an obsessive-compulsive who’s taken up photorealist painting, and his insistence that David’s testimony stick to computerized predictions of Janko’s likely behavior, David fights to meet directly with Janko and is soon drawn into exactly the protests of innocence Caldwell had warned him about. The smug sadism of veteran guard Stevie Karp; the impassioned pleas of Daisy Leszczynski, Janko’s uninhibited librarian girlfriend; Father Emile Toussenel’s matter-of-fact statement that Janko is evil—everyone around the prisoner (except for attractive night nurse Kim Cavanagh, whose attention is obviously reserved for the new psychiatrist) is so sure, in their contradictory ways, what he’s up to that soon David feels as paranoid as his most disturbed patient, incapable of telling whom he can believe or what motives everybody around him has for feeding him the stories they do.
Tightly written, and the two-steps-forward-one-step-back plot generates considerable suspense. A promising debut for Hannibal Lecter fans.