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Posts Tagged ‘psychologist’

GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL by Michael Robotham: Book Review

Good Girl, Bad Girl is one of the most gripping mysteries of the year.  From the deliberately ambiguous title to the perfect ending, it’s a fantastic book.

Cyrus Haven is a clinical psychologist who is called in to evaluate the ultra-mysterious Evie Cormac, a teenager whose real name, birth date, and life history are completely unknown to the authorities.  Evie Cormac is the name she was given six years before the novel opens when she was found emaciated, bruised, and hiding in a secret room adjacent to where a man’s rotting corpse had been discovered months earlier.  A hunch by a volunteer searcher discovered the child, and she was taken away by the authorities and eventually put in a secure facility for disturbed adolescents.

Evie is now petitioning the court, demanding the right to be classified as an adult and thus be freed from supervision, although she still has provided no proof of her real name, age, any information about the man whose body was found near her, or how she ended up in that apartment.  That’s where psychologist Cyrus Haven enters the story; he has been asked to evaluate Evie and decide if she’s ready to be on her own.

There are several reasons Cyrus has been asked by his friend Guthrie, a counselor where Evie lives, to interview her.  The main one is that Cyrus wrote his thesis on people who are truth wizards, and Guthrie thinks that Evie is one.  Cyrus wrote that truth wizards, people who are adept at telling when others are lying, make up perhaps two percent of the population.  He believes they are usually older people who are in professions that have given them a lot of experience deciphering truth from lies–judges, lawyers, and mental health workers, for example.  Evie obviously doesn’t fit this parameter.

However, there’s another characteristic that truth wizards often show–they are people who exhibit a lack of emotions; here Evie is a perfect example.  After a less-than-positive first interaction, Cyrus finds himself volunteering to foster her.  There’s something about her, he thinks, that’s worth saving from another year or two in her current facility.  So because Evie thinks that living with Cyrus and being mentored by him is the lesser of two evils, she agrees to stay with Cyrus until she comes of age or until he is willing to tell the court that she is capable of living on her own.

Simultaneously, Cyrus is drawn into another case involving another teenage girl, although seemingly a very different one.  Jodie Sheehan is apparently the polar opposite at Evie–she’s a nationally ranked ice skater and the daughter in a close and loving family.  But she was murdered on a path between her own home and her cousins’ home, and there’s strong evidence of a sexual assault having taken place.

Why was she on this wooded stretch of woods in the middle of the night when she was supposed to be spending the night with her cousin Tamsin, who is also her closest friend?  As the layers are peeled back from the “perfect girl” persona that Jodie presented to the world, she seems to have had as many secrets as Evie.   

Good Girl, Bad Girl is an outstanding psychological thriller.  The dialog and plot are riveting, and the characters, both major and minor, are totally believable.  The author skillfully takes us into the minds of Evie, Cyrus, and the people who surround them.

You can read more about Michael Robotham at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

 

THE LEGACY by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir: Book Review

In 1987, three young children are removed from their home in Iceland by the local child protection agency.  All three have the same mother, although possibly not the same father.  After much debate, it’s decided that the three will have to be sent to separate homes, as no placement can be found to take all of them together.  The two brothers are four and three, the sister is only one.

In 2015, the first in a series of murders take place.  Elísa Bjarnadóttir, the mother of three young children, is brutally murdered in her home while her husband is overseas.  Only her little girl, Margrét, has seen the murder take place, although she hasn’t seen the face of the killer.  To say she is traumatized is an understatement.  Interviews by psychologists aren’t able to gain much information from her, except for her statement that the man is black and has a big head.  Given the infinitesimally small number of black men in Iceland, this seems like something the child has imagined.

Nothing helpful comes of the police investigation, no reason or motive for the crime can be found.  The only unusual thing the police discovered is an envelope taped to the victim’s refrigerator; it reads “So tell me,” followed by a huge series of seemingly unrelated numbers.  It’s not a code that the authorities can decipher.

Then a second murder occurs, even more gruesome and bizarre than the first.  This time the victim is a widowed math teacher who apparently has no connection with Elísa.  Astrós Einarsdóttir has been a bit of a recluse since her retirement two years ago, so she’s surprised to receive a text reading “Not long till my visit,” along with another string of seemingly random numbers.  She readies herself for the uninvited guest, although there’s no time or date given in the text, and when her visitor does arrive he’s the last person she’ll ever see.

The two protagonists in the novel are psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar (often only single names are used in Icelandic books).  Shortly before the first murder took place, Freyja and Huldar had a one-night stand, which ended with Huldar leaving before Freyja woke in the morning.  When they meet again during the interrogation of Margrét there is understandable tension between the two:  Huldar is embarrassed and ashamed of his behavior, Freyja is hostile and unforgiving.  But they must work together to try to protect the child from both the psychological repercussions of the crime and the possibility that the murderer views her as a possible witness to be eliminated.

Every one of Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s books has been outstanding, and The Legacy is no exception.  The many threads in the story seem unrelated until the end, when everything is deftly and logically connected.  And the look into Icelandic culture, which has many of the same problems as we do in the United States, although on a much smaller scale, is a reminder of the universality of human emotions.  Parental neglect, anger, revenge, and loneliness all play out to the eventual tragic ending that such unhappiness must cause.

You can read more about Yrsa Sigurdardóttir at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

 

 

 

 

THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe: Book Review

As The Ice Beneath Her opens it’s winter in Stockholm, and homicide detective Peter Lindgren gets a call that brings him to the site of a particularly gruesome murder.  The victim, a young woman, has been found beheaded in the home of Jesper Orre.  Not only is the death scene macabre, but the detective realizes that it’s eerily similar to one that took place ten years ago in the city; that murder was never solved.

The novel’s second chapter takes place two months earlier.  There we meet Emma, a young woman who works in Clothes&More, the chain that’s owned by Orre.  She arrives at work wearing a huge diamond ring, but she won’t tell her co-workers the name of her fiancé or anything about him.  The reader learns that her fiancé is Jesper and that she’s promised him she won’t give anyone any information about him because it could cause trouble for him and herself. 

Emma goes to her apartment to prepare a dinner to celebrate their engagement, but Jesper never shows up.  She calls and texts him several times that night to no avail, and she still hasn’t heard from him by morning.

As the book returns to the present, Hanne is introduced.  She’s a psychologist who worked with the police years ago on the unsolved murder case, and she’s called now by Peter’s partner to help with this death.  What the partner doesn’t know, and Hanne doesn’t have any intention of telling him, is that during the course of the previous investigation she and Peter fell in love despite the fact that she was married.

So now Hanne is dealing with two very stressful issues.  One is the extremely unhappy marriage she’s been in for twenty years, the second is the knowledge that her memory is deteriorating and that at some future time she will be completely helpless.  Disregarding her husband’s instructions not to get involved with the present case, she goes to the police station and must confront her former lover there.

The Ice Beneath Her goes back and forth between these three protagonists.  We learn about Peter’s failed marriage and his inability to connect with his teenage son, with Hanne’s controlling husband and her beginning dementia, and the dysfunctional childhood that Emma survived.  All this is portrayed realistically and with empathy, leading the reader to understand the reasons for the present-day behaviors and motivations of these characters.

Camilla Grebe’s novel will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride, with many twists and turns that are all believable.  It’s a book that’s almost impossible to put down.

You can read more about Camilla Grebe at various sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.