"We've got to get out of this place/If it's the last thing we ever do." -- Eric Burdon & the Animals, 1965
Danielle Parkman, high-powered attorney and single mother of 16-year-old Max has many major concerns. Max, a gifted boy with Asperger's has a history of erratic behavior including threats of suicide and lashing out at people who have crossed him. His poor social skills and drug abuse have caused him to be expelled from more than one school and Danielle has him in therapy.
Danielle's fears for her son skyrocket when she reads his diary and brings it to his psychiatrist's office. Once Max is confronted with this latest piece of evidence, he attacks Danielle. The doctor recommends that Max be admitted to the Maitland Psychiatric Asylum in the small town of Plano, Iowa.
Naturally Max does not want to go, but after many tearful entreaties from Danielle reluctantly agrees. Shortly after Max' admission, they meet others with children about to serve sentences in Maitland. (The term "Asylum" hearkens to a bygone generation). Once Max is processed, staff inform Danielle that her son is schizophrenic and rapidly decompensating. She is told not to visit her son. Fortunately, she disobeys this edict.
The staff seem especially sinister and the more roadblocks that are thrown up Danielle's way, the more resourceful she is in working around them.
Shortly after Max' sentence commences, he is charged with the murder of another inmate. The other boy is cognitively delayed, diagnosed with infantile autism and has a history of self-abuse. Staff keeps insisting that Max had a high level of animosity towards this boy and when Max is found in the boy's room after the boy was savagely attacked, Max is the chief suspect. He is arrested and tried as an adult in the State of Iowa.
The questions that arise are many. Since Max and the other inmates are highly medicated and many are restrained nightly, how could he get loose to enter the other boy's room? And why were the security cameras off when Max was found in the boy's room? How did Danielle arrive on the scene just in time to find Max with the murdered inmate? What kind of medications are Max and the others being given?
Luckily, Danielle has allies that come in the most unlikely places. She will stop at nothing to clear her son, even risking a jail sentence in the process. A brilliant, resourceful person, Danielle's search for the truth take her on a cross-country odessy stopping at.....the answers she seeks.
A taut, psychological thriller, "Saving Max" will keep readers on edge waiting to get to the crescendoing conclusion. A highly recommended book.
Reason for Reading: One of the book's main characters is described as having Asperger's and since I, myself have Asperger's I was immediately interested. But the book's plot and setting of a psychiatric hospital also had me eager to read the book.
The book opens with Danielle, the mother of Max, entering a patient's room and finding him brutally murdered while huddled on the floor nearby, unconscious, is her son, Max, with the murder weapon in his hand. Danielle is a lawyer and her son, Max, has Asperger's. Max is about 16 and has become very moody and suddenly started to show violent tendencies. His doctor recommends that it is time Max go to a psychiatric hospital for a full evaluation. When he enters, Danielle is advised to go home but she is determined to stay until he is ready to come home but the doctor will only allow her short visits in the morning and afternoon. Max's behaviour reportedly deteriorates and he becomes extremely violent, has to be sedated and restrained. After the murder occurs Max is arrested as is Danielle as an accessory. Danielle does everything in her power to prove her son's innocence and this takes her along two very different paths, both with a deviant and horrifying end.
This was a fantastic mystery! A page-turner book that I couldn't put down until I'd finished it. The supposed Asperger's theme is not very prevalent. At the beginning we meet a teenage boy with AS and learn some small details of the condition but the story soon morphs into a whole different set of circumstances where the Asperger's can no longer be recognized. At the end, it is addressed again and Max's original problem is dealt with nicely. But this is not a book to read to find out about Asperger's. It simply contains a character who has AS in the same way one would read a book where a character was blind but one would not read it to find out all about blindness.
The story is superb. I love reading books that take place is psychiatric institutions; it is such a private, secluded world that the potential for evil to be taking place with in its walls is perfectly plausible in one's imagination, and of course with the deplorable history of asylums and loony bins not *that* far away in the past it doesn't take a great leap of imagination.
Max is a wonderful character and though he is hard to get to know for most of the book because he's often sedated there does come a time when his true person comes through. It is at this point that some of the benefits of his Asperger's personality come into play (his intelligence and obsessiveness)and he helps vitally with his case. The mystery leaves a wonderful trail of suspense as it unravels. I admit I figured out whodunit quite early and why but the details were still disturbing as they were unearthed.
A totally engrossing psychological suspense. The author's website states that she is working on another book that will once again feature a character with a psychiatric disorder and I am most emphatically looking forward to its release.