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THE PRODIGY
by Charles Atkins
Midnight Ink, January 2008
395 pages
$14.95
ISBN: 0738710393


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dr Barrett Conyers had the talent to become a concert pianist, but she gave up her love of the piano to pursue a medical career in order to support her mother and sister. Now married and working as a psychiatrist for the State of New York, Barrett is happily considering motherhood as her next step in life. All thoughts of a child go by the wayside, though, when she finds her musician husband in bed with another woman. Knowing her income will be drastically cut if she divorces Ralph, Barrett takes on a high-paying job as psychiatrist to a recently released prisoner.

James Martin IV was a child prodigy, gifted beyond his years in music. His future as a concert cellist ended, though, when he was 18. Martinís involvement in the murder of a young woman landed him in Croton, a facility for the criminally insane.

Now, 18 years later, Martinís twin sister Ellen has convinced authorities that her brother should be released. Jimmy is home in the family mansion in Gramercy Park, but heís not entirely free. Confined to his house with a monitoring bracelet, Jimmy is seen daily by a caseworker who oversees his medications. Heís also seen weekly by a psychiatrist, the latest one being Dr Conyers.

It doesnít take long for Barrett to decide that releasing Jimmy from Croton was a mistake. Martin is dangerously infatuated with her, just like he was with the woman he murdered. Barrett becomes afraid for her life after learning of several 'accidents' involving people who dealt with Jimmy.

Her old friend Detective Hobbs urges Barrett to turn Jimmy over to another psychiatrist. Dr Conyers resists, convinced she has a duty to the state that overrides her own need to be free of the case. But the harder she works to send Jimmy back to Croton, the deeper she sinks into a web of deceit and treachery spun by Jimmy and his sister Ellen. With several lives on the line, Barrett must make a heart-wrenching decision that will affect not only her, but also everyone she loves.

Multiple personality disorder lies at the heart of this fourth novel by psychiatrist Charles Atkins. Itís an interesting subject, but one thatís been done to death by writers over recent years. While Jimmyís competing personalities are vividly portrayed by the author, they fail to surprise, much less shock, the reader.

Even the requisite scene of gruesome carnage involving dismemberment of a murdered nanny falls short of eliciting horror, although it does leave one wondering how the insanity of an entire family, a supposedly wealthy and well-known family at that, could go totally unnoticed by anyone.

Most disappointing of all is Atkinsí failure to portray his female characters as having real and powerful emotions. Barrett Conyers and Ellen Martin could have ruled this story if the plot had centered more on their contest of wills than on Jimmyís internal struggles. For some reason, their strengths were never fully exposed, which left this reviewer with an even greater sense of incredulity. While Atkinsí previous novels earned him praise from reviewers, this one leaves much to be desired.

Reviewed by Mary V. Welk, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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