Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante (hardcover, $24

Alice LaPlante's portrayal of a mind deteriorating from dementia sounds disturbingly accurate. I was so caught up in Dr. Jennifer White's mental time-traveling that I almost forgot there was a murder mystery involved.

Although Jennifer lives in her own home with a caregiver, it doesn't take a lot for her to sneak out and get into trouble. So it is possible that Jennifer could have killed her neighbor and best friend, the high-handed and moralistic Amanda. It is especially suspicious that four of Amanda's fingers were surgically removed. And Dr. Jennifer White is a surgeon.

The narrative viewpoint shifts a lot, starting with Jennifer's thoughts while sitting in a police station and on to journal entries, both by her and others. In the end it's a jumble of narratives in second person present, first person present and an intimate third person. Because of Jennifer's shifting mental time frame, we learn about her life in non-linear bits and pieces. It's never too confusing, however, as LaPlante does build to a climactic, cleansing scene. 

The best part of LaPlante's writing covers the worst nightmare of someone beginning the unforgiving route of Alzheimer's. Incredibly, LaPlante is able to inform us of outsiders' reactions to Jennifer, while never leaving Jennifer's often muddled viewpoint. Before the onset of dementia, Jennifer was competent and cool, both as a surgeon and as a person. In fact, those elements still define her. Look, no tears, she often comments. As she deteriorates more rapidly, the questions become will the emotional barriers finally crack, will she have one final moment of clarity, will Amanda's murderer be discovered?

Quite a stunning piece of writing and a moving depiction of a disarranged mind.

1 comment:

  1. I nearly didn't purchase this book as I feared a sentimental, gloomy read. Actually, the main character's disability takes second place to a growing mystery and especially the relationships between the book's six significant characters. I am extremely happy that I didn't miss out on this excellent read.