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Thursday 22 September 2016

‘Dangerous Minds’ by Priscilla Masters

Published by Severn House,
29 February 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8598-2

An invitation to a wedding may evoke many emotions, but when psychiatrist Claire Roget receives an invitation to the wedding of Jerome Barclay it fills her with horror, doubt and dismay. Claire has many present-day patients to occupy her attention but, although she has discharged him, Barclay is the one who preys on her mind. Barclay has an extreme personality disorder and is a manipulative, clever man. He has not been convicted of any serious offence but several of his relations died in suspicious circumstances. To the rest of the world Barclay plays the bereaved man dogged by tragedy but, in private counselling sessions with Claire, she feels that he enjoys taunting her with subtle hints of his involvement in the deaths of his parents and baby brother and her inability to prove it. Also Claire knows that he was abusive to his previous girlfriend and tried to kill her, although the terrified woman was intimidated by Barclay into withdrawing her evidence.

Two years before, Claire had discharged Barclay because she felt he was gaining pleasure and power from his game of 'tease the psychiatrist'. Claire is aware that none of her present professional colleagues perceive Barclay as a serious threat and had encouraged her to discharge him. The invitation to his wedding alarms her in a professional way because she fears he has found another victim to prey upon as he had his family and previous girlfriend. It also worries her in a personal way because he had sent the invitation to her home address – an address he was not supposed to know. Claire already feels lonely and vulnerable at home since Grant, her partner of five years, had walked out on her without giving any reason. She decides that she must attend Barclay's wedding in the hope that she can work out what he is up to.

In the meantime Claire continues to treat her other patients at Greatbach Psychiatric Unit. With an increasing sense of horror she comes to believe that somebody is targeting some of her patients, deliberately preying on their delusions and vulnerabilities, and the only person she can imagine doing so is Jerome Barclay. What is even more alarming, somebody she works with must be giving Barclay information about her patients.

Isolated and unable to prove her suspicions, Claire's hands are tied. Nevertheless she is desperate to protect her vulnerable patients and Barclay's prospective bride and her parents, and, as Barclay intrudes deeper into her own personal life, she fears that she too may be at risk.

This is the first in the Claire Roget series and it is a gripping read. Claire is a strong but vulnerable character with whom it is easy to empathise and her relationships with her other patients are skilfully described, with sensitivity but without sentimentality. Central to the book is her relationship with the chillingly manipulative Jerome Barclay. It is a wonderfully authentic book. I found it compelling and wholeheartedly recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Priscilla Masters was born in Halifax,brought up in South Wales, one of seven multi racial children adopted by an orthopaedic surgeon and his Classics graduate wife. 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, a series which she is continuing with as well as her medical standalones and the Martha Gunn, Shrewsbury coroner, series. Currently she works as a respiratory nurse in the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Her latest book is Dangerous Minds a psychological thriller.

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. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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