Jacob, a teen with Asperger's syndrome, has long been obsessed with the details of crime scenes and crime detection.  He tends to show up when local crimes are reported, and is sometimes able to offer unnerving insights to forensic analysts.  He works closely with an empathetic, intuitive young woman tutor whose controlling boyfriend has more than once tried to taunt Jacob out of her life, but she and Jacob have a strong, healthy connection that ridicule can't touch.  When she is found murdered, Jacob becomes a suspect, partly because of his proximity to the crime, and partly because the symptoms of Asperger's-avoiding eye contact, twitching, and hesitant or repetitive speech-resemble guilty behavior.  Though he has valuable information to offer as to who actually committed the crime, the process of making himself heard by those disinclined to take him seriously and uninformed about his syndrome, takes time, during which the disrupted lives of those around Jacob, especially his mother, become stories in their own right.


As in other of her compelling novels, Picoult has taken on a significant public issue-how poorly the justice system is likely to serve those who can't communicate normally-and woven it into a multi-layered, highly readable, and memorable mystery.  This one is especially rich with insight into the habits and inner world of a young man with Asperger's, and the challenges that face those who live with him.  It's a satisfying read, and likely to raise a variety of rightly disturbing questions about how schools, courts, families, and social services may best accommodate the growing population of people diagnosed with some variety of autism spectrum disorder.


Atria Books (Simon and Schuster)

Place Published

New York



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