Certifiably Insane

Arthur W. Bahr, Author
Arthur W. Bahr, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-80232-9
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 292 pages - 978-0-425-18221-5
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-4767-3843-7
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New York forensic psychiatrist Simon Rose, 45, who narrates this debut thriller in the first person, has lost his wife to suicide. Simon now lives with his devoted dog, Tupelo, who acts as his shrink through imaginary conversations, and his adopted daughter, Debby, who suffers from violent nightmares. His longtime friend and colleague, Kate Newhouse, a savvy criminal lawyer in a wheelchair, is constantly hounding him out of his self-protective shell, setting up blind dates and urging him to work for her, which he avoids. But the new case she offers him is different: Janice Jensen, a woman accused of killing her husband and infant, was Simon's high school flame, and she has specifically asked for Simon to help represent her in the insanity defense Kate is preparing. Recognizing too late his conflict of interest, Simon withdraws, yet Janice is not so easy to elude. She manipulates the system by claiming to hear her dead mother's commands, and thereby escapes proper retribution. Obsessed with Simon, she plagues him with demands and threatens those he loves--including his dog. Simon's view of her antisocial personality disorder has a Freudian glibness, but he's clearly aware that she might be just plain evil. The narrative drags toward the end, as Simon gets caught up in psychological explanations for Janice's bizarre behavior, but the setup is vigorous, the writing is witty and crisp and the tone a careful balance of humor and gravity. Bahr's characters, especially the intrepid Kate, are worthy of a series. Sadly, however, former Michigan forensic psychologist Bahr died while completing this book (his widow is editing a second novel). Agent, Sagalyn Literary Agency. Mystery Guild featured alternate. (Mar.)
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