|As a child Claire Waters experienced a life defining moment. Her best friend Amy was kidnapped as the two played in the driveway of Claire’s house. Though Claire had been instructed by her parents about not speaking or accepting rides or food from strangers, and understood the importance of these words, she was unable to prevent her friend from going off with a man in his car when he claimed to be a friend of her father’s.
As an adult, Claire still felt guilty that she had not protected her friend. This guilt may have pushed her in the direction of her chosen field, forensic psychiatry. Now she is working under the tutelage of Dr. Paul Curtin, one of the most respected men in the area. Determined to prove her ability, she accepts the challenge of interviewing Todd Quimby, an inmate convicted of “forcible touching.” Quimby is now up for parole and Claire will be one of the people who will decide whether Quimby can be rehabilitated.
Claire pushes for Quimby’s release, citing that he was a normal nine-year-old that had been exposed to an emotional trauma and subsequent institutional upbringing that he was unable to cope in social situations. She will administer counseling that will enable him to live a normal life because she can empathize with childhood trauma . (She says with her fingers crossed, hoping she herself is emotionally stable).
Soon after she has begun counseling Quimby, he calls her confessing to soliciting sex with a prostitute in Times Square, and begging her to talk to him. She learns that the hooker was a woman who resembled his mother, the source of all his problems. She manages to get her patient calmed down and promises further sessions. The next day she learns that the hooker Quimby had solicited had been killed and he is the prime suspect.
The coauthors of Kill Switch are former executive producers of the television hit Law and Order Special Victims Unit. As one might expect from someone with this background, the story unfolds at the speed of a high speed train. With the exception of an opening flashback to Claire’s childhood trauma with her friend, there is little attention paid to detail. Action is everything.
The novel is divided into two parts. The first is a search for Quimby as crimes of a similar nature are committed, leading law enforcement officials to believe Claire’s assumption that she can rehabilitate Quimby to be horribly wrong. The second part is an inquiry by one concerned policeman aided by Claire to explain an anomaly. One of the victims does not fit the profile. Further examination of this victim’s life sends the investigation off in a wildly different direction.
The plot of Kill Switch, while entertaining, is predictable, with many serendipitous events occurring favoring law enforcement. At one point they find a diary hidden in the mattress of the anomalous victim yielding a host of useful clues. The thought that a twenty something young woman in this day and age would record he thoughts on paper rather than a computer takes a leap of faith and that the initial investigators at the scene missed, finding it requires more stretching of the imagination.
There are several humorous jabs at the prison system which may or may not be justified. One character remarks that records are difficult to obtain because “the inmates run the asylum.” Or some not so humorous comments about psychiatric patients that have not committed violent crimes may do so because no one is concerned enough to intervene on their behalf before they have been corrupted by the system. The real trick is that each patient is important. If you fail with a potentially dangerous person, many more people could be hurt.
The characters, though likable enough all have critical flaws, either mental or physical. They predictably help each other out providing the necessary skill that the one with the defect cannot. Claire has her emotional issues. Her associate on the police force has been diagnosed with a problem with his eyes which robs him of his night vision and will eventually render him blind.
Occasionally the authors attempt to give deeper meaning to the story alluding to an apartment being a metaphor for a character’s life. They have written an entertaining story that will occupy most mystery readers for a rainy afternoon or plane trip. Deeper meaning is not part of this program. All the major problems are successfully resolved by the final page of the book, though I suspect the ideas contained within might provide fodder for a future miniseries.