They told her to peer into the mind of a killer.
They didn't say which one....
It happened in a place of privilege in New York City, when a twelve-year-old boy committed an act of violence that stunned the city and the nation. Now forensic psychiatrist Tamsen Bayn has been hired by her fianc�, who is also a lead prosecutor in the case, to interview the accused boy's parents and unravel the mysterious causes of an inexplicable crime.
But when she does, Tamsen discovers something more shocking than the psychological history of a family and the pain of a deeply troubled boy. Tamsen begins to examine a shadowy connection between this crime and a pattern of violence around the country.
Suddenly Tamsen is caught between science and the law, between the man she loves and a truth she must pursue. Inside an explosive mystery that involves genius, greed, hope, and murder, Tamsen may become the most dangerous player of all: the one who knows too much....
Drawing on her experience as a forensic psychiatrist, Chern weaves an intricate debut thriller that addresses issues such as child violence, prescription drug use and family relationships. Dr. Tamsen Bayn always longed to be a famous forensic psychiatrist who would serve as an expert witness in high-profile trial cases. When her fianc�, assistant Manhattan D.A. Greg Jolson, asks her to evaluate the parents of a 12-year-old killer, Tamsen seizes the opportunity to examine the roots of child violence while boosting her career. At the same time, Tamsen lands a cushy position at Grandines Pharmaceuticals as the spokesperson for their new drug, Curixenol, an antidepressant that also treats alcoholism. As Tamsen learns more about Grandines, she slowly realizes that the company's miracle drug may have deadly side effects. Chern's prose is detailed, graced with a splash of humor and liberally sprinkled with technical terms such as suicidal ideation, vascular dementia and seizure disorder. The novel's pacing is sluggish, however, and readers will figure out what Grandines is plotting long before Tamsen begins to doubt the company's integrity. A far-fetched conclusion ties up loose ends too neatly, and although this isn't a spine-tingling, psychological thriller, it's a solid first attempt.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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September 03, 2001
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Excerpt from Homicidal Intent by Vivian Chern
I was defrosting in the bathtub on the coldest and snowiest night of the year. The tub was a little crowded. I perched my feet on Greg’s chest, wiggled my toes, and admired the pedicure I had gotten that morning. Greg didn’t even crack a smile. “What?” I said. “Nothing.” “I thought you liked this time of year. The lights, the decorations. I feel like a little kid.” “You don’t want to be a kid these days.” Greg splashed some water on his face, rinsing off the bubbles. “I got a new case today.” “That boy?” I asked, knowing immediately the one he meant. The city hadn’t announced its final choice of prosecutor yet, but I had suspected that the case might become Greg’s. Despite his dark coloring, in the district attorney’s office he was the proverbial fair-haired boy. “Yeah. Can you imagine? Barely twelve and already a murderer. And he’s being tried as an adult — by me. It’s going to be tough.” He picked up a handful of bubbles and slathered them on his face, as if donning a mask to hide his defeated expression. I watched the steam rise toward the ceiling. Maybe love wasn’t enough to counterbalance the sordid events and disturbed people that were our daily bread. Every day, something new happened that I found impossible to forget. Sometimes I wondered when my brain would run out of room for my collection of horrors. “What’s he like?” “The Devinski boy? Seems like a regular kid. Kind of angry.” “Did you meet the parents?” “Not yet. I don’t think they want to talk to me. They are only communicating through their lawyer.” Greg paused, and I waited for what I knew would be his next words. “I can’t wait to go up against her.” His usual enthusiasm crept back into his voice, exactly as I had expected. Natalie Diamond was well-known as an ambitious, utterly ruthless criminal defense lawyer. She was very much in demand by New York’s criminals, at least those who could afford her astronomical fees. The fact that the Devinskis had retained her to represent their son had been on the news within hours of the school shootings. But what worried me wasn’t her legal prowess or that she was going to make Greg’s life miserable in court. “Any chance that he’ll plead guilty and spare you the trial? After all, everyone knows that Jason Devinski shot those girls. A hundred witnesses saw him.” “I think they’re going to go for your favorite defense.” “An insanity defense? He’s only twelve. By definition, I would say he doesn’t have the same capacity as an adult to distinguish right from wrong. But the chance of him being mentally ill ... I don’t think so.” I worked with some pretty shady characters in my private forensic psychiatry practice. The criminally insane were always challenging and never boring. But I rarely worked with children and had never been involved with either the prosecution or the defense of child murderers. “Are the parents divorced?” I asked. “I don’t think so,” Greg said, with a strangely satisfied look on his face. “It’s a horrible case. And bizarre. So many kids killing other kids, or their parents, or even strangers, lately. And all of them have been out in the boondocks. Here in the city, I guess I thought we were at least immune to murderous children.” “A lot of cases in Arkansas and Michigan.&