Helpline: A Portia McTeague Novel of Suspense

Faye Sultan, Author, Teresa Kennedy, Contribution by Doubleday Books $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-48526-5
Forensic psychologist Portia McTeague's return (after her debut in Over the Line) starts well, proffering solid information about how forensic investigations work, but it fails to deliver the psychological savvy readers might expect from the author, herself a forensic psychologist. One of the novel's themes is that the profiling of criminals is not the methodical procedure alleged by the FBI, but a complex and often intuitive endeavor; yet at times Portia ends up looking nearly as clueless as the federal agent with whom she's competing to identify a serial killer. After the harrowing murder trial depicted in Over the Line, Portia had decided to abandon crime-related work to focus on her private psychology practice in Charlotte, N.C. But when, one by one, three women in the ""helping"" professions (a nurse, a nun and a psychic) are found dead and mutilated, Portia joins the hunt for the killer, an involvement that strains her relationship with both her new lover and her therapist. Portia refuses to acknowledge the childhood abuse that drives her, and this psychological blind spot in her investigation is ostensibly what causes her to miss the obvious similarity between the killer and a certain obnoxious reporter. Readers, however will have made that connection long before Portia does; while the book's conclusion features an unexpected twist, it dangles in the wake of a tale that has already lost its power to enthrall. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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