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Sunday, June 7, 2015


3 stars out of 5

I've read and enjoyed a handful of books by Lisa Scottoline, but none in the last couple of years. When I saw that this one has a medical slant - and even more special to me, psychiatry - I just couldn't pass it up. But alas, it fell a bit short of my expectations; when it came time to rate it, I waffled back and forth between 3.5 and 4 stars, finally settling on the lower number because while it was very readable, there were just too many things that kept it from being great.

Before I decided to tackle this one, I did what I always do: Check reviews from other readers. One of the biggest complaints is that there's too much exposition regarding the workings of psychiatric care; while I tend to agree somewhat, it really didn't bother me much because - although I didn't learn much I didn't already know - I have a strong interest in the field. Rather, my biggest concerns are that the central character Dr. Erick Parrish, a highly regarded chief of the Psychiatric Unit of a hospital near Philadelphia and father (with an ex-wife) of a 7-year-old daughter, turned out to be an annoyingly obsessive person who, given his profession, should know better. As a father, his emotions are overwrought and over the top, but understandable; as a practicing psychiatrist, they cross the line into the realm of ridiculous a few too many times. 

Interspersed throughout are chapters written from the perspective of a sociopath - one who, I assumed, is out to bring Eric down. But who is it, and will the police (and/or Eric) discover the identity before it's too late? I read those chapters with great interest, looking for clues but found none; at best, those chapters simply outlined manifestations of sociopathic behavior, making me wonder why they were there at all.

As the story unfolds, Eric meets 17-year old Max, who's got a druggie mother and a grandmother he adores; so when she dies, he's devastated. He's also got an OCD personality, needing to tap his head and recite a few words every 15 minutes on the dot (in a Gestalt "Aha," the apparent source of the book's title). The good doctor is concerned about the young man's mental well-being and takes him on as a private patient, seeing him at home. But when Max's supposed girlfriend is murdered, he goes missing. Could Eric have missed the signs that Max is capable of murder? Ever more concerned, Eric tries to find the boy and ends up a suspect himself.

I also got a bit weary of all the issues that plagued Eric - from custody battles over his daughter to his house being torn upside down by police carrying out a search warrant . Often, I thought of Michael Corleone's line from "The Godfather": "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in." Just when you think things can't get any worse here, the temperature of the hot water Erick is in already climbs higher. Combined  with his obsessive personality, by the time that water reached the boiling point, I said enough, already - I don't much care much whether it cools off or not.

If you enjoy medical thrillers, this really isn't a bad choice; I'll simply say that it's not Scottoline at her best.

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline (St Martin's Press, April 2015); 446 pp.

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