cover image The First Stone

The First Stone

Judith Kelman, . . Berkley, $24.95 (358pp) ISBN 978-0-425-21367-4

At the start of this disappointing thriller from Kelman (The Session ), artist Emma Colten, pregnant with her second child, is struggling to balance motherhood with her professional duties and the needs of her husband, Sam, a surgical resident at a prestigious Manhattan hospital. When a distinguished new cardiovascular surgeon, Doug Malik, arrives both as Sam's new boss and the Coltens' upstairs neighbor, Emma's life only spins further out of control. She suspects Sam of infidelity with Malik's attractive young protégé and is disturbed by the pleas for help from Malik's young daughter that she hears through her apartment's ceiling. Fearful of jeopardizing Sam's chances to become chief resident, Emma fails to alert the authorities of her suspicions that abuse is occurring. When she confides in the head of her son's preschool, an official inquiry leads to a cataclysmic confrontation. Some psychological insights will resonate with parents of young children, but others may find the characters insufficiently developed and the plot too fantastic to swallow. (May)