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Book Author: Michael Robotham

LYING BESIDE YOU by Michael Robotham: Book Review

One of the reasons that Cyrus Haven is such a skilled, empathic therapist is the almost unbelievable trauma he suffered in his own life.  When he was a young teenager, his older brother Elias killed their father, mother, and young twin sisters.  By the time Cyrus arrived home that afternoon, the deed was done, leaving Cyrus with trust and abandonment issues that have followed him through the years.

Elias was assessed to be a paranoid schizophrenic and has spent the last two decades at a secure psychiatric hospital near London.  Now, after undergoing a review by a panel of mental health professionals, he is being allowed off the hospital grounds, at first with two bodyguards, then progressing to unescorted overnight visits to Cyrus’ house, finally with the ultimate goal of living there permanently.

This naturally brings up various issues, especially for Evie Cormac, a young woman who lives in that house.  She too survived a devastating childhood and was put into foster care placements until Cyrus offered her a room in his home.  Not surprisingly, Evie has many problems, and living with Elias will definitely lead to more.

Cyrus is now working with the police as a criminal profiler, an expert on human behavior, and as such often encounters criminals and their victims.  He’s called to the scene of a murder of an elderly man and what may be the abduction of the man’s daughter Maya.  Is she too a victim of the person who murdered her father, or is she guilty of patricide?

Then Cyrus takes another person into his house.  Mitch is on parole after completing six years of an eight year sentence for sexual assault, and his parole officer has sent him to Cyrus for a consultation.  He insists he did not assault the young woman who lived in the flat above his, although his DNA was found in her bed.

By the end of the consult Cyrus offers Mitch a maintenance job at his house, and shortly after that he invites Mitch to move into one of his unused bedrooms.  Then Elias returns home to live.  With Cyrus, Evie, Elias, and now Mitch, it’s a house filled with troubled people.

Maya’s body is found, and it becomes obvious that she was killed by the same individual who killed her father.  When another young woman is reported missing, Cyrus is convinced that there’s a link between the two crimes.

The characters and the interwoven plots of Lying Beside You are skillfully and realistically drawn.  Readers will empathize with Cyrus’ desire to heal  everyone in his household, even though that may be at the cost of his own emotional health.  Even the least likable personalities in the novel have some redeeming, human quality that make them understandable, thanks to author’s writing.

Michael Robotham’s books have been translated into 25 languages.  He won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger for his 2020 mystery Good Girl, Bad Girl (reviewed on this blog) and twice won the Australian Ned Kelly Award for his novels  Lost and Shattered.  You can read more about him at this site.

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.

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.



BLEED FOR ME by Michael Robotham: Book Review

Joseph O’Loughlin, a psychologist who is the protagonist in Bleed For Me, has a lot to contend with. He’s suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, is separated from his wife through no desire of his own, and his fourteen-year-old daughter Charlie can barely tolerate him.  And things are going to get worse for him, a lot worse.

Julianne, Joe’s estranged wife, calls him at 11:00 p.m., saying that Charlie’s best friend Sienna has appeared at her door, covered in blood.  Joe rushes over, just in time to see Sienna run from the house.  He follows her through the woods and into a nearby lake, pulling her out before she goes underwater permanently.  Sienna is rushed to a nearby hospital, and as Joe returns to his former home he is told by a neighbor that Sienna’s father, a retired homicide detective, has been murdered and the police think Sienna committed the crime.

Zoe, Sienna’s older sister, confirms that their father sexually abused them, but she is adamant that Sienna didn’t kill him.  However, the police see it differently, and Sienna is arrested and slated for trial.

Joe goes to talk to Gordon Ellis, the drama teacher at Charlie and Sienna’s school. Although Gordon is popular with all the girls, when Joe questioned Sienna at the hospital she refused to talk about him.  Gordon says he thought there might be a problem at Sienna’s house and arranged for the girl to see a counselor.  Joe has a “gut feeling”–that Sienna is protecting somebody and that Gordon knows more than he’s telling.  No proof, just a feeling that there’s something between the two of them, something inappropriate.

Sienna has also been close to the counselor at school, Annie Robinson.  Annie says she knew Gordon Ellis in college but wasn’t close to him.  She calls Gordon “too handsome for his own good” and promises to look into any conversations at school about possible sexual misconduct between Gordon and the female students.

One of the reasons that Julianne left Joe and wants a divorce is her feeling that he can’t separate himself from his work and his clients. And that certainly seems to be the case here.  His car is run off the road, his dog is killed, but still he persists in trying to help Sienna; true, she’s not a patient, but her closeness to his daughter makes her seem to Joe as nearly a member of his family.

Bleed for Me is a beautifully crafted, incredibly suspenseful book.  It’s not an easy read, dealing with parental sexual abuse and other sexual perversions, things that are unfortunately all too common in today’s news.  But the emotions of all the characters ring true–their fears, desires, lusts, loves–all the emotions that make us human.

You can read more about Michael Robotham at his web site.