SUSPECT

Michael Robotham, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-50861-2

Joe O'Loughlin, a London psychologist, loves his job and loves his family—wife Julianne and eight-year-old daughter Charlie—even more in Australian author Robotham's well-written, if somewhat convoluted, debut suspense novel. O'Loughlin's life takes two disastrous turns: first, he's diagnosed with Parkinson's disease; second, while helping Det. Insp. Vincent Ruiz on the case of a murdered nurse, Catherine Mary McBride, he becomes the primary suspect in the killing. The crime occurred close to O'Loughlin's London home, giving him opportunity, and it turns out that McBride had been his patient and had accused him of harassment, giving him plenty of motive. Vivid characters mostly avoid stereotype, while a fast and furious last section makes up for a wealth of asides and anecdotes that, however effectively done, slow the narrative. More seriously, the book can't decide whether it's a psychological mystery or a conspiracy thriller and strains credibility well past the breaking point. Still, Robotham shows real promise, putting a fresh spin on the familiar crime fiction trope of the falsely accused man. Agent, Mark Lucas at Lucas Alexander Whitley. (Feb. 1)

Forecast: A bestseller in Australia and the U.K., and an international BOMC, Mystery Guild, Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection, this title may have a tougher time hitting the bestseller lists here.