20 April 2011

Book Review in Brief: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Turn of Mind, a debut novel from author Alice LaPlante, is not your ordinary literary mystery.  Jennifer White is a retired surgeon suffering from dementia, who also happens to be the chief suspect in the murder (and minor mutilation) of her best friend and neighbor, Amanda.  But how on earth can this crime be solved when the prime suspect cannot even remember her own children from day to day?  Or when Jennifer is brokenhearted anew to learn of Amanda's death each time the detective comes by to speak with her?  Jennifer's mind has good days and bad days, sometimes good hours and bad hours within the same day, and for the longest time it seems as if the mystery will go wholly unsolved, with Jennifer herself unsure of what happened on the day her friend was last seen alive.

This book is an extraordinary and gripping look into a once-sharp mind as it descends towards the terrifying alienation and the inaccessible abyss of memory that circumscribe dementia. Avowed mystery readers may see the end coming, but I myself did not.  Despite the mutilation (Amanda's body is found with a few fingers severed, post mortem), this is not a gory or graphic book at all, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery or a good book about a complicated, brilliant, but not always likable woman who somehow is able to keep her head even while she loses her mind.

NB: Mike Katz, my Perseus/PGW sales rep, gave me this ARC back in September 2010 and I fully intended to read it on my October vacation, but then I misplaced the book.  It surfaced recently, I read it right away, and it will be published in July 2011.  It's been getting lots of great bookseller buzz, starting with Winter Institute and building from there.  


  1. I must check and see if this is going to be available in the UK. It sounds fascinating. Thank you.

  2. Interesting-the author has an excellent book about fiction writing (I think its called The Making of a Story). I would be inclined to read this, based on your review. I'll add this to the ubiquitous list.


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