'Every Fifteen Minutes' Has One Twist Too Many

Lisa Scottoline is one of my favorite authors. Year after year she produces novels that entertain with great escapist plots. Some books are better than others but they all have the ability to hold my interest all the way through the story. Such is the case with her latest novel Every Fifteen Minutes. It holds my interest but it isn't one of her best. The problem is her ending which tries to be too clever by half.

Writers love to keep their readers guessing, and this novel starts out telling us there is a sociopath in the story somewhere. We don't know who he/she is until the ending but we know this person is lurking in the corners waiting to pounce. This is a smart, exciting premise but Scottoline overplays her hand. Instead of being satisfied with one unexpected twist she introduces a second one, and that is one too many.

The main character in Scottoline's story is Dr. Eric Parrish. He is the head of a psychiatric unit at a major hospital in Philadelphia. He is very successful at his job because he is empathetic with his patients. But as his career becomes more and more successful his private life goes to hell in a handbasket. His wife has decided she wants a divorce and she won't take no for an answer.

Eric would like to keep his family together for his own needs but particularly for the needs of his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. She is a sensitive little girl and a divorce will threaten her fragile world. Above all else he wants to protect his daughter.

Soon however Eric has more problems than he can handle. It seems someone is systematically out to wreck his world. His life goes from good to not-so-good, to horrible, and he seems helpless to stem the flow of bad news surrounding him. Yes, it seems the sociopath has committed to bringing Eric down.

Scottoline is brilliant at getting the story moving right from the start. She also has a rare talent for creating and defining her characters. Readers are sucked into this story and remain fascinated with everything spelled out on the pages. It is only at the end that it all falls apart.

Is Every Fifteen Minutes worth reading? Yes! But you might just want to stop before the author plays her final surprise. It is one surprise too many, at least for this reader.

EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES is published by St Martin's Press It contains 448 pages and sells for $27.99.

Jackie K Cooper, www.jackiekcooper.com