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Friday, January 23, 2009

Suspect, by Michael Robotham ($7.99) (c2005)

I enjoyed The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham so much that I picked it for one of the best books of 2008. I hadn't read any other books by him so I'm trying to remedy that. Now I'm working my way forwards from the beginning. Suspect is the first book in his (so far) three-book series in which a different --but related -- character narrates each book.

Psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin is curious when he crosses paths with Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz who is trying to identify a murder victim. The detective rubs him the wrong way, but still Joe takes the opportunity to show himself off as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes when he's invited to view the body.

Much later Joe realizes that he knows the victim. Then the coincidences begin to pile up and other people in Joe's life, whom he would swear had nothing to do with each other, appear strangely connected to the murder. Because Joe is caught off-guard, he hesitates to tell Ruiz about the victim, hesitates just long enough for Ruiz to become suspicious and begin to consider Joe his best suspect. And on and on it goes. Joe finds that more evidence points nasty little fingers in his direction and he can't understand why.

To complicate matters, Joe has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Still partly in denial and largely angry over his bad luck, Joe is separated from the ones he needs and loves the best, his wife and young daughter, during his time of need because he soon finds he must run. If he is to divert suspicion away from himself, Joe must find out who is behind the master plan to frame him.

Robotham masterfully builds the suspense. He is quite good at presenting one jaw-dropping revelation after another. There was more than one occasion when I thought I knew what was going on, only to be fooled.

Joe is not your typical heroic protagonist. He is flawed and strangely uncommunicative for a psychologist. His arrogance surfaces more than once to undermine his desperate drive to reclaim his good name. Which makes for good reading. This is primo page-turning stuff. I read 80 percent of it within a day. (Then the Australian Open -- that's tennis, mates -- happened, and it took me three days to read the rest.)

Highly recommended.

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