Shatter by Michael Robotham
This is the first book I read by Australian author Michael Robotham. Joseph O’Loughlin is a clinical psychologist who gets called to talk down an unidentified naked woman poised to jump from Clifton Suspension Bridge. He is unable to communicate with here as she seemed to focus on someone else speaking to her through a cell phone, and ends up jumping in front of his eyes. A few days later the victim’s daughter shows up on Joe’s doorstep, and voices her own doubts about her mother’s ability to commit suicide.
This enters Joe into a personal battle with the evil mind of a killer. Someone who can humiliate, violate and break his victims by shattering their minds. The story is a fast-moving and terrifying thriller full of characters you can relate to. Joe himself is a broken and flawed; he suffers from Parkinson, and has no illusions about his powers of understanding the human mind. There are many interesting insights in the narrative that make it more than just a fiction thriller.
Joe experiences a range of emotions that anyone can recognize, and dissects them in a very self-effacing way. He says he got involved into psychology in the first place to better understand the woman he loves, his wife Julianne, but he admits that she remains largely a mystery to him. Joe also reflects on the variability of the human mind, the different ways people deal with pressure and grief. He makes very truthful observation about family, love and children. It is heartbreaking to note throughout the book that it is much easier to break a human mind than to heal it. The fractures of the human mind are mostly on the inside.
The book is written from the first person perspective of both Joe the psychologist and the perpetrator, bringing in contrast their treatment of the human mind, and adds a chilling aspect to the novel.
Here is a quote that touched close to my heart spoken by a minor character. She is a mother describing one feeling that is common to all parents:
“You never stop worrying. You worry through the pregnancy, the birth, the first year and every year that follows. You worry about them catching the bus, crossing the road, riding a bike, climbing a tree.. You read stories in newspapers about terrible things happening to children. It makes you frightened. It never goes away. And then you think how they grow up so quickly and suddenly you don’t have a say any more. You want them to find the perfect boyfriend and the perfect husband. You want them to get their dream job. You want to save them from every disappointment, every broken heart, but you can’t. You never stop being a parent. You never stop worrying. If you’re lucky, you’re going to be around to pick up the pieces”.