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Compulsion: A Novel [Hardcover]

Keith Ablow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 22 2002 Frank Clevenger (Book 3)
Dr. Frank Clevenger, a brilliant forensic psychiatrist, is eager to leave the world of the criminally insane behind-until he receives a chilling phone call. Close friend and former colleague North Anderson, now the Chief of Police on the exclusive island of Nantucket, is desperate for help in solving a shocking case: One of the infant twin daughters of billionaire Darwin Bishop has been murdered in her crib at the family's estate. The suspected killer is her adopted brother Billy, and investigators believe that the fugitive teenager has targeted the surviving twin.

But as Clevenger maps the Bishop family's psychological layers he uncovers some disturbing revelations that lead him to believe Billy may be innocent. The Bishops are a deeply troubled family. As charming as he is ambitious and cruel, Darwin seems determined to protect his son-but is he actually trying to railroad him? Why does Garret, Bishop's other son, despise his father so intensely? Is beautiful Julia Bishop a mother grieving for her murdered child or a manipulative seductress with a dark secret to hide?

As Clevenger fights to protect the innocent and hunt down the guilty, aspects of the case begin to collide with demons from his own past. After a life-threatening attack the forensic psychiatrist knows he must penetrate the killer's psychosis in order to identify him before the Bishop family-and Clevenger himself-become the next victims. Using his mastery of psychiatry, Clevenger lays a trap to reveal the murderer in an unforgettable finale.

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From Amazon

Billy Bishop, the Russian-born adopted son of a billionaire, has all the classic signs of a sociopath, but before he's arrested for the murder of Darwin and Julia Bishop's infant daughter, his half sister, Nantucket police chief North Anderson wants another opinion. Frank Clevenger, the forensic psychiatrist evaluating Billy, isn't convinced of the teenager's guilt, especially when he learns that Darwin has been abusing Billy for years. The victim of his own father's abuse, Frank has difficulty maintaining appropriate emotional boundaries in his dealings with the Bishops--not just with Billy, but also with Julia, who becomes his lover. All the loose ends in this tidy little psychological thriller are tied up a bit too neatly, and the denouement comes as no surprise to anyone except perhaps Frank himself, who's a little too quick to abandon his professional objectivity. Keith Ablow, a forensic psychiatrist like his protagonist, has used his medical background before (Denial, Projection), but in his effort to make the defenses and motivations of the characters in this novel completely comprehensible to his readers, he sacrifices its subtlety and diminishes its suspense. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Battle-scarred Boston forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger is reluctantly drawn into the Nantucket murder case of five-month-old twin Brooke Bishop in this brainy psychological thriller. All evidence points to the younger of the victim's two adopted Russian-born brothers, 16-year-old problem child Billy. The boy's father, Darwin Bishop, a wealthy entrepreneur from Brooklyn, promptly sends Billy off to the psych ward at Manhattan's Payne Whitney to keep him under observation. But Clevenger's old inner-city cop buddy, North Anderson, now the Nantucket chief of police, thinks Billy was set up by the real killer and fears for the surviving twin. Clevenger heads to the island, but the pressures of the case retrigger his old alcohol problem, which is complicated by his instant lust for Bishop's ex-model wife, Julia. Billy escapes the psych ward, and there is a murder attempt on the other twin, but it is far from clear that Billy is the culprit. Meanwhile, Darwin has Clevenger followed by goons in vans, gets North kicked off the case and pushes Billy into jail without getting him a good trial lawyer. Unsettling phone calls from Billy; a pretty nanny's pricey jewel; old court records; clues from Billy's older brother, Garrett; a dark secret of North's; and assaults on Clevenger and Julia send Clevenger down a twisted trail to a whammy of a double surprise ending the reader won't see coming. Action nimbly shifts from gritty urban Boston to window-dressed Nantucket, and the people and politics are realistically portrayed, including the ballsy but deeply flawed protagonist. Not as bloody as Ablow's first outings (Denial; Projection), this one scores as a great psychological mind-bender.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Psychological Mystery Nov. 10 2003
The book starts out with the classical mystery scenario where someone has been murdered, in this case a baby, one of twins. The murderer could have been any one of 5 people who were in the house at the time. The prime suspect is Billy, an adopted son of the baby's father. Billy is such a likely suspect because he has long shown signs of a tendency towards pathological behaviour. For this reason, Dr Frank Clevenger is asked to come and talk to Billy to give his opinion on whether he thought it probable that Billy was the killer.
While he is at the house of the murdered baby, Clevenger talks with the other family members and quickly decides that the prime suspect isn't the only one with the psychological profile of a killer. Added to the list are: the billionaire businessman, head of the family and overly dominant father figure; the beautiful younger (2nd-) wife, mother of the dead baby with a history of depression; the eldest son, also adopted and driven hard to strive for high achievement by his father; and finally, the pretty nanny who seems to be the primary caregiver to more than just the babies.
So Clevenger has to dig through the minds of the family members to work out whether Billy is the murderer, as has been accused, or whether it was someone else and Billy is being brilliantly set up.
I didn't find this book quite as compelling as the first couple of books in the series, although the frailties of the human mind are laid bare in fascinating detail. Certainly, one of the strongest aspects of the series is the substantial character descriptions and development. The past of Frank Clevenger continues to be revealed and just when I thought I knew all about him, a little more of his shocking past is told.
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5.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING COMPULSION May 29 2003
Frank Clevenger is not an easy character to like: he is smug, a trite arrogant; a womanizer; a recovering alcohol and drug addict, who sometimes falls off the wagon; and he's not the best reader of people's psyches, which is strange since he is a psychiatrist. However, if you've read his first three books, you can probably understand why Frank's the way he is.
In this one, he agrees to help an old friend in a murder case of a three month old twin, and hopefully prevent the murder of her sibling. Frank falls much too quickly in love with Julia Bishop, the mistress of the household whose child was cruelly murdered. As the novel moves along, we have several choices for the villian, and by the end of the novel, it turned out to be exactly who I thought. (Maybe I'm just getting brilliant?) Ha ha. Anyway, this is a spellbinding novel, and The Bishops have to be one of the most dysfunctional families since Eugene O'Neill. I think you'll be "compelled" to read this one.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatrist, heal thyself. Aug. 7 2002
Dr. Frank Clevenger, a forensic psychiatrist with many internal demons of his own, gets involved in a complicated murder case in Keith Ablow's new thriller, "Compulsion." On the island of Nantucket, one of the infant twin daughters of billionaire Darwin Bishop is found murdered in her crib. Clevenger is called into the case by North Anderson, a former police officer from Baltimore who is now chief of police on the beautiful island of Nantucket. Clevenger and Anderson are former colleagues who have collaborated on some tough cases in the past.
Clevenger is reluctant to commit himself to another forensic case, since he is still recovering from some terrible experiences that have scarred his psyche. However, North draws him into the web of intrigue surrounding the Bishop family, and Clevenger becomes involved on many levels with the Bishop family. Besides Darwin and the twin daughters, the Bishop family includes Julia, Darwin's gorgeous and seductive wife, and their two adopted teenaged sons, overachieving Garrett and Billy, a budding psychopath with a history of violence.
Everything about "Compulsion" is extremely intense. It is a deeply psychosexual book which delves into the dark forces that make people do the unthinkable. Clevenger doesn't act like a psychiatrist much of the time. He crosses over the line into professional misconduct more than once. Clevenger is a deeply flawed and troubled character. He is an example of someone who becomes a psychiatrist because he wants to help himself and others who have suffered deep emotional traumas.
As a thriller, "Compulsion" is fairly predictable. Ablow throws out red herrings galore, there is a fair amount of sex and violence, and the ending has a "twist," which has become almost compulsory these days.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating crime thriller July 8 2002
Brooke and Tess are identical twin girls born to billionaire Darwin Bishop and his beautifully charismatic wife Julia. They also have two adopted sons, Graham the golden boy and sixteen year old Billy who has been in and out of psychiatric institutions all his life and is known to the local authorities for his violent behavior.

When Brooke unexpectedly dies, Darwin immediately thinks that his son murdered his sister. Nantucket police officer North Anderson isn't convinced that Billy is guilty and brings forensic psychologist Dr. Frank Clevenger on the case. Frank believes that everyone that was in the house except for baby Tess is a likely suspect and he risks his own life to uncover the truth.

The moment one starts reading this fascinating crime thriller one is compelled to finish it in one sitting. Like the protagonist, readers will find it hard, if not impossible, to figure out who killed the infant because all the suspects have motives, meaning and opportunity. Keith Ablow is a gifted storyteller who ha written an exceptional tale.

Harriet Klausner
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A COMPELLING READ
Ablow's newest tale is his best yet. The author doesn't use his background in forensic psychiatry to bore you with complicated medical terms but instead allows the reader more of... Read more
Published on June 9 2004 by Kay Blythe
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
This is the first book I have read by this author. If you like the medical thriller genre, then you should pick up this book. Read more
Published on June 2 2004 by L. Dunn
4.0 out of 5 stars Clevanger meets Nantucket gothic...
"Compulsion" is another great book by Ablow. Set a few years after "Projection", Dr. Read more
Published on May 4 2004 by Peter LaPrade
5.0 out of 5 stars Ablow's third is a winner
Ablow's last novel PROJECTION turned me off so much I didn't want to read any more of his books, but I gave this a try anyway, and I'm glad I did. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2004 by David Group
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries too hard
This book could have been shortened by at least 40 pages. It tries too hard to throw out red herrings and pushes suspects too vividly until the reader KNOWS they won't end up... Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2003 by Sandra Trolinger
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Once again, I have found a great author but read his latest, Psychopath first.. which left no secrets in Compulsion. Dr. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2003 by A. Vegan
5.0 out of 5 stars love2read
I'm not really good at summarizing stories, but I have to say, Keith Ablow has totally blown me away with the forensic psychologist Frank Clevenger books! Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Whiny Shrink
I think the main character-Frank- needs more therapy. His issues distracted from the story to such an extent that I couldn't get into the mystery. Read more
Published on July 1 2003 by Jenny
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning as always
Frank Clevenger is a fantastic antihero, and Keith Ablow has created something special. A fantastic ride that is hard to step away from, following in the steps of Denial and... Read more
Published on June 22 2003 by Nathan Dowell
3.0 out of 5 stars Did Keith Ablow, M.D. Really write this book?
The concept of this book is compelling, but the identity
of the killer is much too easy to deduct. Read more
Published on June 18 2003
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