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Patricia Gussin’s And Then There Was One

Normally I find the books I review in the excellent collection of the Iowa City Public Library. This time I received a review copy of a psychological thriller that will be released on October 4, 2010, Dr. Patricia Gussin’s “And Then There Was One.”

Gussin is a board certified Family Medicine physician who has spent at least part of her career as the director of research and vice president of a health care company. She grew up in Michigan, practiced medicine in Philadelphia, and now splits her time between Florida, New York and New Zealand.

Somehow Gussin has also found time to become a very accomplished writer with this fourth thriller and one non-fiction title under her belt. Her first novel, “Shadow of Death,” was nominated for Best First Novel for the Thriller Awards, and I look forward to catching up with these earlier works soon.

Gussin has put the things she knows as a physician, native of Michigan and current resident of Florida to good use in her writing. She obviously has great empathy for parents of missing and abused children and has a very detailed and heart-wrenchingly intimate knowledge of what child abuse can do to individuals and families. Abduction, abuse and murder of children are without question the ultimate nightmare scenarios for any parent, and Gussin portrays the physical and psychological impact of those experiences with chilling, heart-stopping accuracy. She doesn’t waste any time at it either: the abduction takes place on page one and the suspense builds from there.

The story revolves around a bi-racial family, Katie and Scott Monroe and their triplets, Sammie, Jackie and Alex. Sammie and Alex are abducted from a movie theater while Jackie and her cousin are spared, having gone in to see a different show. The police and FBI are faced with a complex process of evaluating the credibility of any number of persons of interest and witnesses. Were the nine-year-olds abducted by an old flame of Katie’s, a jealous baseball player who was fired by Scott, a child abuser on parole who was put away by Katie’s expert testimony as a child forensic psychiatrist, by an alleged abuser Katie is about to testify against, or someone completely different?

Unlike the Police procedurals on TV, the case is not cracked by high tech forensics or mind-bending profilers, but rather by old-fashioned observations from witnesses and dedicated law enforcement professionals. My guess is this is a more realistic look at how abduction cases are solved than the ones we see on TV.

This book delves deep into the psyche and emotional state of almost every character which makes for a fascinating read. In this respect, it reminds me a lot of “Lovely Bones,” and like that book makes an important statement in a very literary way.

“And Then There Was One” should be read and appreciated by a much wider audience than just those who like to read mysteries and thrillers. This book has a lot to say about how we raise our children, issues that surround bi-racial families, the impact of abuse on children and families, the abused who grow up to abuse, and so many other issues.

“And Then There Was One” receives a thumbs up from this reviewer. It is an important novel on a similar level of quality and emotional pull as “Lovely Bones” or “The Secret Lives of Bees.”

Liz Nichols

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