cover image MURDER SUICIDE


Keith Russell Ablow, . . St. Martin's, $21.95 (305pp) ISBN 978-0-312-32389-9

Number five in Ablow's Dr. Frank Clevenger series (after 2003's Psychopath ) continues the forensic psychiatrist's insightful investigations into intricate and deadly puzzles. Called in by a stumped Boston police department, Clevenger applies his skills to the mystery surrounding genius inventor John Snow, who is found shot outside Massachusetts General Hospital just an hour before he is to undergo experimental brain surgery. The police want Clevenger to determine if the death is murder or suicide. When Snow's lover, Grace Baxter, is found several days later with a slashed throat and wrists, the question surfaces again. Clevenger is a meticulous procedural investigator; he and partner North Anderson follow each and every lead to its logical, if sometimes tedious, conclusion. Clevenger's métier is interviewing suspects, and there's a surplus of them as family, friends and enemies, any one of whom could have killed the eccentric Snow, parade through the pages. Clevenger's problematic personal life is again examined in detail: adopted 18-year-old Billy is still challenging Clevenger's shaky parenting skills, and Clevenger's love affair with FBI chief forensic psychiatrist Whitney McCormick is always on-again, off-again. Drugs and alcohol, two other demons from his past, wait in the wings. Clevenger agonizes over all of this while methodically solving the riddle of Snow's murder, playing each of the suspects against the other until he tricks a confession out of the guilty party. While the excitement is not exactly pulse pounding, Clevenger puts in some solid sleuthing, and the low body count is refreshing amid a sea of frenetic thrillers in which victims number in double digits. Agent, Beth Vesel. (July)