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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

‘The Deceiver’ by Priscilla Masters

Published by Severn House, 
31st October 2017. 
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8752-8

Claire Roget is the psychiatrist at Greatbach Secure Psychiatric Hospital. Her professional life is fulfilling but her personal life is empty ever since her boyfriend, Grant, left her in order to move home and help care for his sister who has cystic fibrosis and is a permanent invalid.

Claire’s caseload is diverse, including two cases that Claire is assessing before they appear in court. Arthur Connolly is a meek, polite, middle-aged man who, after years of bullying, had snapped and stabbed his wife, injuring her seriously although she is expected to recover. Riley Finch is a young woman who stole a baby, simply because she wanted one. Riley has a history of stealing anything she takes a fancy to and dumping it or abandoning it when she is bored with it. She has no empathy and for her, a baby is no different to a designer handbag, something to be coveted, acquired, then thrown away. Claire is sure that Arthur is no danger to society as long as he keeps away from his wife but is aware that the court is almost certain to give him a custodial sentence. On the other hand, she is certain that Riley knows how to play the system and will be given a non-custodial sentence. In Claire’s professional opinion she is a Narcissistic psychopath who will continue to re-offend and one-day cause extreme physical as well as emotional damage. Claire often deals with patients traumatised by violence and also those who commit violent acts and she has already discovered that, in many cases, the Law is often inadequate.

Claire’s working week is progressing as usual when she receives a phone call from a colleague that is a desperate demand for help. Charles Tissot is a gynaecologist who is being accused by one of his patients, Heather Krimble, of having sex with her and being the father of her unborn child. At a first glance the accusations are absurd as the Heather was already seven months pregnant when she was referred to Charles. What is more, during her two previous pregnancies, Heather has accused men who were not her husband of fathering her children, although a DNA test proved conclusively that her second child was fathered by her husband. Tragically, both of her previous children died in infancy. The cause of death was given as the unexplained phenomenon known as cot death. Although the pathologist could not find any sinister reasons for the babies' deaths, this gives Claire further reason for concern regarding the welfare of Heather and her new baby.

Although all the signs indicate that Heather is a mentally ill and deluded young woman, Claire has a lingering doubt that all she says is untrue. Claire had been at university with Charles Tissot and has good reason to know that he is capable of being a sexual predator and certain aspects of Heather’s story strike a chord with her. Claire is determined to do her duty and discover the truth and, above all, to protect the baby both before and after birth. However, when danger comes, it seems that not even Claire’s professional skill and dedication may be sufficient to prevent tragedy.
The Deceiver is the second novel featuring Claire Roget and it is excellent. The plot is cleverly convoluted and well-paced, and Claire is a thoroughly likeable, although not flawless, protagonist. The psychological aspects are fascinating and are portrayed with sympathy but without sentimentality. The Deceiver is clearly written by an author who is an expert on the subject of mental ill-health. I found the subtle portrayal of Claire’s own emotional needs particularly well done. The Deceiver is a superb novel that quietly grasps the reader’s attention and does not let go until the final page. Highly recommended.
Reviewer:  Carol Westron

Priscilla Masters was born in Halifax, and brought up in South Wales, one of seven multi-racial children adopted by an orthopaedic surgeon and his Classics graduate wife. Priscilla trained as a registered nurse in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She moved to Staffordshire in the 1970s, had an antiques business for a while and two sons. She started writing in the 1980s in response to an aunt asking her what she was going to do with her life! Winding up the Serpent was her first Joanna Piercy story, published in 1995.  Although that series is still continuing the latest Crooked Street  published 2016, she has also written several medical standalones and a new series featuring coroner Martha Gunn, set in Shrewsbury. Her latest book is Dangerous Minds a psychological thriller featuring Dr Claire Roget who is a forensic psychiatrist who has some very unpredictable patients. It is set in Stoke on Trent.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

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