Picks and Pans Review: Suspect

updated 03/14/2005 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/14/2005 01:00AM

by Michael Robotham

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Robotham's terrific debut novel is a classic "wrong man" thriller that puts its hero in hot water, then raises the Fahrenheit to a fever pitch. London psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin cares for a gallery of odd-balls (one's a "gephyrophobe"—she's afraid to cross bridges). But a former patient who years earlier had accused him of sexual impropriety has been killed on her way to interview for a job as Joe's assistant. That spells motive for a dogged cop named Ruiz, whose "laugh is like a marble dropped down a drain." Ruiz doesn't buy Joe's claim to know nothing about the interview, or the doc's suspicion that a schizophrenic patient named Bobby Moran might be the killer. Using precise first-person narration, Robotham puts readers inside Joe's mind—we feel his anguish at having his house searched and the fear that sends him on the lam across Britain. The web Joe ultimately untangles is elaborate, and Robotham not only builds the suspense masterfully but tops it off with a stunning twist.

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