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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A bracing tale about the vexing inscrutability of human behavior, Pat Barker's Border Crossing takes on the provocative subject of child crime with a mesmerizing story about a boy murderer and the psychologist whose testimony put him in jail.
As Border Crossing opens, young Danny Miller has reentered society with a polished jailhouse education, but he has yet to reconcile himself to the crime he committed. As a ten-year-old boy, Miller broke into an elderly woman's home and smothered her to death. Now, on a cold, wet night, he tracks down his former psychologist, Tom Seymour, who is in the midst of painfully confronting his own marital woes.
As Tom and his wife stroll along a gritty river quay, Danny throws himself into the icy water, making it look like a suicide attempt. After Tom saves the young man's life, he realizes the uncanny coincidence. A specialist in childhood violence, Tom senses professional gold in Danny's desire to talk over the past. He also feels responsible for Danny's fate. As Tom begins sessions with Danny, he tracks down the young man's jail warden, teacher, and probation officer and receives the same warning at each turn: Beware, he's dangerous.
Border Crossing moves forward with an ominous, tightly wound energy. The more we learn about Danny's prison antics -- seducing his English teacher, mimicking the speech and walk of his guards -- the more we distrust him. Tom, however, is inexorably drawn into the dark night of Danny's troubled conscience. Even as his marriage dissolves, Tom presses on, believing that if he can convince Danny to confess the truth, both of them will be redeemed. Yet, because of Danny's labyrinthine lies -- and the nagging possibility that he may want revenge -- Tom must tread lightly over past tragedies.
Like Melanie Rae Thon's contemporaneous novel, Sweet Hearts, Border Crossing stares right into the face of evil and admirably resists judgment. It is possible to commit an evil deed, Barker suggests, without being an evil person, the borders we traverse between good and evil being so tenuous. As the novel careens toward its muted climax, when another child murderer may expose Danny's true identity, Barker leaves us with the thorny knowledge that rehabilitation, while possible for criminals, can never rescue their victims. (John Freeman)