Walter Marks, Author . Carroll & Graf $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1043-0

Broadway composer and lyricist Marks strikes a dull note in this debut psychological thriller set in the environs of a New York State prison. Psychiatrist David Rothberg is trying to determine whether Victor Janko, the notorious baby carriage killer, should be paroled after 15 years behind bars. In his initial consultations, Rothberg detects little threat from Janko, a model prisoner who spends most of his time painting beach landscapes. Janko insists he has no memory of the crime for which he was sentenced—the stabbing death of a young mother while her baby watched from a nearby carriage—and, indeed, some evidence points to his innocence and toward another suspect. Yet Rothberg finds himself pulled in another direction by prison officials who claim they have heard Janko brag about the crime. Right on cue, a key fact emerges that turns Rothberg from prison shrink to dogged investigator, hunting for the real killer in New York City. Just when it seems that Marks is about to build to a heady finale, the plot peters out disappointingly. Some readers, however, will have grown bored earlier on. In spite of Rothberg's unusual profession and some quirky traits—he suffers from migraines, drives a converted Checker cab and cares for a pet turtle—he has a remarkably spiritless interior life. "If only I could get a resolution to the mystery of Victor Janko," he thinks at one point. "But how?" Readers may well have stopped wondering. Agent, Henry Morrison. $100,000 advertising. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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