Suspect // by Michael Robotham


//published 2005//

Now that I’ve finished the Amanda Jaffe series, I’m ready to delve into something new.  My next mystery series is the Joseph O’Laughlin series by Michael Robotham, first brought to my attention by FictionFan, who has reviewed several books from this series, including Suspect.  I read another Robotham book this summer (a stand-alone), Life or Death.  While I found it to be an engaging read, I never really connected with the protagonist.  Still, I didn’t dislike it, and was interested to read another of Robotham’s books.

The narrator is O’Laughlin himself, a middle-aged psychiatrist.  He has a comfortable practice, a beautiful wife, and an adorable daughter, and, on the whole, a contented life.  However, O’Laughlin has just discovered that he is in the early stages of Parkinson’s.  Struggling to come to grips with the news, he makes a mistake that will definitely come back to haunt him.

Meanwhile, a girl’s body is found.  Through a series of events, O’Laughlin is asked to examine the body.  He is surprised to find that she is not, after all, a stranger to him…

It’s a twisty tale with a lot of action.  On the whole, O’Laughlin comes across as likable.  He’s not afraid to say when he’s been wrong, and I liked the way that he grew as a person throughout – he is very self-assured in the beginning, and it was good to see him willing to look at his possible blind spots.  Mild spoiler, I was pleased to get to the end and see O’Laughlin and his wife working through their difficulties, but the book-flap of a later book mentions that he is struggling through a divorce, so I am sad to hear that, once again, we will have a situation where a happily married couple just can’t make it work any more, because apparently people don’t know how to work through their troubles like adults.  (But I’m sure that will be a complaint for that future book.)

The story is written in first-person present-tense, which I hate in general, and especially hate in a thriller.  How in the world am I supposed to believe that O’Laughlin is narrating things like his own almost-death!?  And I never really understand a FPPT story that then has an epilogue…???

I wonder if Robotham always intended for this book to turn into a series, because in some ways this book reads better as a standalone.  I never for a moment believed that O’Laughlin could be the criminal because he goes on to be the main character of several books, and I really doubt that he’s doing that from prison.  But as a standalone, the premise that O’Laughlin himself is the murderer could have added a whole other level of intrigue to the story.

Still, even with the knowledge that O’Laughlin must be the fall guy, the whole concept of why and how kept me reading as fast as I could.  There were definitely moments where I found myself raising my eyebrows skeptically, but on the whole the story hangs together and produces a satisfying ending.

While there is some moderate language throughout, it is definitely not completely filled with cursing, and there is a delightful lack of gore as well.  Robotham relies on his story to provide the thrill, not gruesome crime scenes.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.  Overall, Suspect was a strong read – 4/5 and recommended.

PS Apparently this book has been published as both The Suspect and just Suspect.  This makes no sense to me.  Why do publishers do this?  It really seems to me that an author ought to choose the title first, then publish the book and then keep the same title no matter where the book is published.  This whole bit where the book changes names depending on which English-speaking country is appears in is quite aggravating.