Amnesia (Peter Zaks Mysteries)

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9780312268671: Amnesia (Peter Zaks Mysteries)

If the only witness to a murder has amnesia, how do you catch the killer?

Instead of matching fingerprints or DNA, forensic psychologist Dr. Peter Zak solves cases by studying psychological clues and phenomena. Peter, whose specialty is the brain and behavior, consults for the Boston public defenders office, analyzing the thought processes and personalities of witnesses and defendants.

Sylvia Jackson was shot in the head and left for dead, her boyfriend murdered. Waking from a coma after six weeks, she remembers nothing-until three months later, when she begins to recall details of the crime and the killer. Finally, Syl accuses her ex-husband, remembering what seems like incontrovertible evidence of his guilt. But Stuart Jackson seems destroyed by his ex's ordeal; could he really be guilty of this vicious crime?

Peter quit consulting on trials a year ago when his wife was brutally murdered by a killer angered by Peter's suggestion of an insanity defense. But when his old colleagues call for help with this bizarre case, he's hooked. It's Peter's job to determine how reliable Syl's memory really is, and to use those memories to uncover the truth.

Amnesia is guaranteed to be the start of an intriguing and original crime series.

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Review:

Forensic psychologist Peter Zak is still plagued by guilt over his failure to save his wife from death at the hands of a criminal angered by Peter's suggestion of an insanity defense at his trial. But he reluctantly agrees to evaluate the mental competence of Sylvia Jackson, whose memory of the events surrounding her boyfriend's murder seems to Peter to have been influenced by the Boston policeman who hasn't left her side since she awakened from a coma weeks after the killing. Although she remembers nothing at first, within a few months she is sure enough of significant details to implicate her former husband, whose lawyer calls on Peter's expertise to challenge her testimony. There's a connection between Sylvia Jackson and Maria Whitson, a private patient referred to Peter by a colleague after a failed suicide attempt, but the full import of it isn't teased out until the penultimate chapter. Meanwhile, the authors do an excellent job of explaining the vagaries of the mind, memory loss, and traumatic amnesia.

Amnesia, a collaboration between a sibling of the writing Ephrons and a Boston-area psychologist, is an engrossing thriller with a complex protagonist well versed in the etiology of false memory syndrome. Peter's mother and Annie Squires, a public defender whose patient affection awakens feelings Peter has buried since his wife's death, are appealing minor characters, and the particulars of the Cambridge setting--sculling on the Charles in a chilly, gray dawn, the memorable taste of a toffee-topped cone from Steve's Ice Cream--are nicely rendered. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

G.H. Ephron is actually two people, A. A. Greeley, a practicing forensic neuropsychologist, and Hallie Ephron, a writer. Both live in Massachusetts, and this is their first novel.

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