Diamond Dogs

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Overview

Neil Garvin is a seventeen year old living in a small town outside Las Vegas. Abandoned by his mother when he was three, he blames his abusive father - the local sheriff - for driving her away. Neil is good-looking, popular, the quarterback of the high school football team - and as cruel to his peers as his father is to him He plans to get out of town on his "million dollar arm," until the night he accidentally commits a terrible crime, and his father, unasked, covers up for him. As the FBI arrives and begins to ...
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Diamond Dogs: A Novel

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Overview

Neil Garvin is a seventeen year old living in a small town outside Las Vegas. Abandoned by his mother when he was three, he blames his abusive father - the local sheriff - for driving her away. Neil is good-looking, popular, the quarterback of the high school football team - and as cruel to his peers as his father is to him He plans to get out of town on his "million dollar arm," until the night he accidentally commits a terrible crime, and his father, unasked, covers up for him. As the FBI arrives and begins to narrow in, Neil and his father become locked in a confrontation that will break them apart - and set them free.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers

When the galleys for this first novel arrived at our offices, several of us volunteered to read it-all with few expectations. Little did we know that we'd signed up for one hell of a ride. Diamond Dogs is that coveted work of fiction that you can't put down from the moment you read the first page. Alan Watt has written an enthralling story surrounding a hit-and-run accident and its subsequent cover-up. But what resonates even more than the unfolding of this suspenseful tale is the relationship between a father and son, and writing that is powerfully evocative of the best of Pat Conroy and Tobias Wolff. High school senior Neil Garvin, a cocky, seemingly self-assured and much-worshipped quarterback of his high school football team, could actually be a pretty unlikable protagonist -if we weren't seeing the story through his eyes. But with a full understanding of his daily life, his family history, and his own frailty, he becomes not only real, but deeply sympathetic. When Neil arrogantly insists on getting behind the wheel one fateful night after having too much to drink, the horror that follows will change not only the course of his life, but that of his father as well. And the ripple effect of that one action will ultimately set both of them free from the bondage of their shared past.

Whether it takes you a few hours, half a day, or a couple of days to read, Diamond Dogs is a thoroughly satisfying, unpredictable, and promising page-turner from a writer to watch.

The New York Times Book Review
Dark, sparklingly written...subtle deadpan humor and slyly evoked telling details...a moving, multifaceted story.
Seattle Times
An exciting debut...a tight drama that quickly flies by.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Highly readable, if finally unconvincing, Watt's debut novel is the story of a bitter family legacy and a traumatic reckoning, as Watt explores the reasons an abusive father might risk everything to cover up a crime committed by his damaged, equally cruel teenage son. Inebriated after a party with his high school football team, Neil Garvin, 17, first-string quarterback and "the best arm in Nevada," accidentally kills a classmate, Ian Curtis. Neil's father, the sheriff of their small town near Las Vegas, covers up for his son. Ian's parents report the boy missing, and more than 300 students join in a search led by Neil's father. Mrs. Curtis asks her brother, an FBI agent, to help, and as the FBI tightens the net, Neil and his father must face some truths about their family. Watt, who is also a stand-up comic, has a knack for deploying well-timed plot points to reveal crucial information. The book starts off with faithful characterizations of the sad, angry father and son, and the dialogue between them is appropriately savage, but there are key moments in the story that don't ring true. The most unconvincing scene occurs at the narrative's dramatic apex, when Neil finally, and improbably, discovers the dark secret of why his mother left home when he was three. At the same time, the reasons for Neil's hellish childhood become melodramatically clear. Still, there are certain pleasures in this novel, including incisive scenes that capture the petty cruelties and poignant betrayals of adolescents. The author also gives vivid voice to a character type that has become a staple in modern American fiction: a man unmoored by divorce and filled with festering anger and alienation. Watt takes the archetype a step further, delineating how the father's desperate behavior affects his son, and how this pair find an uneasy peace in breaking the chain of lies and violence. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Megan Harlan
[A] dark, sparklingly written first novel...Watt delivers a moving, multifaceted story that sharply explores the legacy of violence, distorted forms of love and the high cost of genuine freedom.
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613346757
  • Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Toronto, Alan Watt moved to California to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. He has appeared on dozens of comedy shows, including Caroline's Comedy Hour and MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour. Currently living in LA, writing screenplays, Diamond Dogs is his first novel.
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Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

I WAS ANGRY. We were all at Fred Billings's house. He lived in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Carmen. His father raised chickens. The whole place stank of chickens. He let them run around in this corral that he surrounded with a mesh-wire fence. I liked that about Fred's father. He could have made a lot more money if he'd kept those chickens in cages and fed them that low-grade steroid shit, but instead he let them run free.

Mr. Billings had gone into Las Vegas with his wife to see Dorothy Hamill in Enter the Night, so Fred decided to have a party. It was mostly the football team. They were all downstairs getting wasted or outside sitting by the fire. We always ended up at Fred's house. It wasn't the most convenient place to get to, it wasn't even all that nice, but Fred's folks never hassled us so that's where we ended up. Fred played center. He was big and wide, his forehead was this beefy ridge of flesh, and he had an irreparable underbite. I don't know anything about genetics, but judging by his folks Fred was not going to age well. It was hard to believe that this was as good-looking as he was going to get.

His girlfriend was Amy, small and thin with large breasts, a little girl in a woman's body. She only had one eye. When she was six her father was setting off firecrackers in a coffee can and the whole mess blew up in her eye. The doctors replaced it with a blue glass iris that didn't quite match, but she was still pretty cute, and Fred was crazy about her. I was up in Fred's parents' bedroom with my girlfriend, Lenore. I had her shirt off and my mouth wrapped around one of her big brown nipples. I wastrying to get my hands down her shorts, but she kept grabbing them and putting them back on her tits. This had been going on for a while, I mean like over a year, and that's why I was starting to get angry.

"I can't," she said.

I had my jeans around my ankles and my dick straining to Jupiter. She touched it for a second, her long, soft fingers running up the base while I held my breath. And then she stopped. My mind was racing, searching for the right words to make her continue, but the best I could come up with was More.

"I can't."

I got off the bed and started to pull on my jeans.

"What's wrong?"

"I can't do this anymore," I said.

"Do what?"

"Not have sex, that's what."

And then she started to cry. I never knew what to do when she cried, I just stood there feeling guilty and out of control. She kept telling me that it wasn't personal, like if I'd been someone else she still wouldn't have wanted to have sex with me. I didn't know why she was talking about not having sex with someone else. I wanted it to be personal. My head was spinning and so I went into the bathroom. I was staring at myself in the mirror and thinking about jerking off when I heard a knock at the door.

"What do you want?"

"What's the matter with Lenore?" It was Reed, my best friend.

"I don't know."

"She's crying, man" I wanted him to go away. "What are you doing in there?"

I opened the door. Reed was drunk; he had two beers in his hands, and he handed me one. He was looking at me with this wide-eyed expression.

"This is our year, man. This is it. We're going ...we're fuckin' going ...fuckin' all the way!"

He was hugging me. I still had some of my erection left so I stuck my butt out in case he noticed. He was practically sobbing. He got very emotional when he talked about football. I almost felt like crying too, but I couldn't, it wasn't something that my father encouraged. He took it personally. I didn't understand that before, but now I do. It was just too much for him.

Reed's family had moved to Carmen from Bakersfield when he was eight. He'd walked into the classroom in the middle of the school year looking tough and scared. He sat at the back of the class while all of the kids watched him, gawking. Except for me. I kept my eyes on the board, pretending to pay attention, and then at recess I followed him out to the far end of the field.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"Where the hell's Bakersfield?"

"California."

"How come you moved here?"

"My daddy's a mechanic, he took a job here with his brother-in-law." Reed didn't talk like the rest of us; his speech was slow, and when he spoke his eyes wandered all over your face like they were searching for a place to land. I felt this pounding inside of me, but I was scared and so I asked him if he wanted to fight. He said that he would if I wanted to but he'd rather race me back to the school. And so we raced. He led all the way. I kept running, hoping that he would tire, but he didn't. He beat me by twenty yards. Between gasps he told me, "I was ...the fastest ...runner at ...my last ...school."

As we walked back into the school I noticed that our strides matched perfectly. With most people you're either a little ahead or a little behind, until eventually you're not even on the same street anymore — but walking with Reed was effortless, it was one of those things that I just never even had to think about.

We finished our beers and went downstairs. Lenore was standing by the kitchen door talking to Amy. When she saw me she turned away. Amy took her hand and pulled her into the kitchen. It drove me crazy when I knew that somebody was talking about me behind my back, especially a girl. Girls could make anything that a guy did sound bad. Once Paula Bell told us about some guy who liked her and one time while he was laughing snot came out his nose and landed on her dress. It was an accident, but the way she told it made him sound so pathetic that we all started calling him Snot.

I can't even remember his name, I just remember Snot. I always wanted to apologize to him, explain to him that I didn't mean it, but I never did. Sometimes I think that if I'd had the guts to apologize to him then maybe this whole thing would never have happened. I don't know, maybe it was inevitable — maybe what happened had nothing to do with guts.

There was a lot of noise coming from the living room. D. J. Farby was lying on his back on the floor while Craig Nutt and Benny Jericho funneled beer into his mouth from a plastic boot. When they saw me they all screamed, "Garvin!"

I kept my throat open and let the beer flow right into my stomach without taking a breath. If you took a breath you could drown. I lay there and felt the alcohol hit me; the whole back of my head went warm, and for a few seconds I didn't feel angry anymore. My eyes felt as if they were floating around in their sockets, about to come loose. I just lay there on my back listening to Nirvana blaring from the stereo.

"You sick fuck!" hollered the Penguin, our stumpy halfback. His name was Craig Nutt, but he had a long torso with tiny arms and legs so we called him the Penguin. I stood up and the room started spinning. Benny and the Penguin steadied me and I think I told them I loved them. I prowled the room, screaming along with Kurt Cobain, making up my own lyrics:

I'm a screamer, you're a bleeder,

You're a squealer, I'm your dealer!

Nothing mattered. Everybody was drunk, the music was blasting, and we all felt invincible. I passed the front window and that was when I saw these two skinny freshmen walking up Fred Billings's driveway toward the house. One was blond and the other had black hair. I don't even remember how it happened, I just remember being outside and having the blond one in a headlock while Blackie, his knees knocking together, watched from a safe distance.

Blackie was skin and bone, probably tipped the scale at ninety pounds. I remembered seeing him in the cafeteria. All the jocks sat together, laughing loud and shoving each other, and Blackie sat with his friends, looking over at us with this dark, frightened look like he was missing something special.

Somebody always smashed a plate at lunchtime. It was a daily tradition at our table. Whoever did it would act horrified, and if it was the Penguin he'd pretend he was crying as the teacher rushed over, prepared to give us hell. They'd make rules like the next person who dropped a plate would get detentions for a week, but it never happened. Everybody would be clapping and laughing and we were the center of attention.

One day Blackie dropped his plate. He was walking past our table and suddenly we all heard this crash. Everyone started whooping and screaming, except for us. Blackie was grinning. He'd done it on purpose. The rest of the school turned to us for their cue and when they saw that we weren't applauding they stopped almost instantly. It got very quiet — Blackie was standing there all alone picking up his broken plate while his grin turned to panic. And then somebody yelled out, "He wet his pants!" I don't think he actually did, it was probably his apple juice that spilled, but it made a perfect stain down his leg and everybody started chanting, PISS, PISS, PISS, PISS, PISS! He picked up the rest of his lunch, put it on his tray, and threw it into the garbage. We kept chanting until he was well out of the cafeteria and far out of earshot, but after something like that you're never out of earshot.


***


I was holding Blondie's face in the dirt and making him say, "I want my mommy." He had to say it twenty times before I let him go, but after he said it seventeen times, I kept repeating, "Seventeen."

"That was twenty," he said.

I asked him, "Whose face is in the dirt?"

"Mine," he said. And that was when I felt the beer leave me. I didn't feel drunk anymore. I was just watching myself holding this kid's face on the ground and all I could think about was my father.

That night I'd asked my father if I could borrow his car. He drove a mint-condition '67 Eldorado; it was a color that I'd never seen in the desert before, a color that for the longest time I couldn't place. It was the color of rust. He looked up at me from his chair, spun the cubes of ice in his glass, and said, "What are you going to do for me?" His eyes were blurry and he had this curled-up half-smile.

"What do you mean?"

"What do I mean." He stared at the television. "I mean what are you going to do for me?"

"What do you want?"

There was a sleeping-pill commercial on the television that had the pill singing about how it would knock you out cold and you'd wake up refreshed. "I want you to sing." I stared at the floor. I didn't feel like singing, I just wanted to get out of the house. "I thought you meant like a chore or something."

"No. I want you to sing that commercial."

I felt my throat go dry; I tried to say that I didn't know the words but all that came out was air. All I said was, ". . . words"

"What?"

"I don't know the words."

And then he roared with laughter. "Make 'em up." I sang for a minute. He just sat there and stared at the television with his finger on the mute button. He didn't laugh. He didn't make a sound. I stopped for a second but he said, "Minute's not up yet." And so I kept singing. For a full minute I sang, making up words, hating him, hating myself, but singing because I knew that he would give me the keys to his car.

I'd traded places with the Penguin. Now he was holding Blondie by the ankles and swinging him around in circles in the Billingses' front yard while I gave Blackie a wedgie. He was begging me to stop. Most of the girls rolled their eyes and went inside but a few of them watched and chatted with some of the other guys. Blackie was whimpering, pleading for me to stop, but I couldn't. The more he whimpered, the more I just wanted to continue; it was only after the Penguin got tired of spinning Blondie that I knew I was going to have to stop, and I felt despair.

I remember them running down Fred's driveway, their skinny legs flying over the gravel, Blackie's underwear halfway up his back and trying to pull it back down while Blondie screamed at him to "Run!" I threw a beer bottle in their direction just to hear it smash. I wanted to drown out the noise of my father's laughter as he handed me the keys and told me to get the hell out of his house.

I remember trying to push Ernie Gates into the fire. Everybody was laughing but I wasn't fooling around; I had him in a bear hug and I was dragging him toward the flames. He jabbed his elbow into my ribs. It was the kind of jab I knew was really going to hurt the next day, but that night I couldn't feel a thing, I was spinning out of control. Like Reed said, this was our year, I was the first-string quarterback for Carmen High, I had the best arm in Nevada, and this year we were going all the way. I remember punching Ernie in the face with my fist and his nose starting to bleed.

I remember telling Fred that he should mind his own business and to go fuck his Cyclops.

I remember them holding me down and telling me to cool off.

I remember Reed yelling at them not to hurt my arm.

I remember vomiting and Reed rubbing my back and telling me to "Chill. Just chill, buddy. Everything's cool." I remember telling them all to go fuck themselves. "Just leave me alone. I want to be alone!" But I didn't, really. I didn't want to be alone.

I was three when she walked out on us. Just threw everything into a bag and split, and all that was left was a photograph. She had jet-black hair, clear green eyes, long, muscular legs, and a dazzling smile. She danced the midnight show at the Sands. That's where my father met her — swept her off her feet, I'm sure. But that was a long time ago.

In the photograph my mother is smiling; her hands are under my arms and she's holding me up. My father has his arm around her and a goofy grin on his face. The picture made no sense to me. He was not that man, I was not that boy, and that woman would never have left her son. I used to stare at the picture with my thumb covering my father and wait for her to come home and save me. I knew why she'd left; I just didn't understand why she hadn't taken me with her, I didn't understand how she could have left me with him.

The only memory I had of my mother was her pantyhose. We were in the laundry room and I was watching her fold her pantyhose and she was looking right at me, but her face was a blur. No matter how hard I tried, I could never see her face. And I remembered her perfume. I remembered the day that Lenore wore it to school. I told her that she shouldn't wear it, that it smelled awful and it didn't suit her body chemistry. That's what I said. And then I avoided her for the rest of the day. After practice she waited for me outside the dressing room, so I climbed out the window and hitched a ride home.

When I was five, for my birthday, my mother sent me a card and a calendar with horses. I never took it out of the plastic. I remember my father getting angry with me because I wouldn't open it. I wanted to keep it clean, show it to her when she came home, show her that I was a good boy and that I kept things clean. That was the only thing she ever sent me.

The next year, my father gave me a football. When he threw the ball with me he was a different person, he was kind and patient. When I dropped the ball he never yelled — he just chuckled and we'd try it again. We'd throw the ball around for hours and then he'd put his hand on my shoulder and we'd walk back to the house. His hands were huge, like bear claws, the fingers thick and muscular — a flick from his fingers would sting my head for days. I was terrified of my father's hands. I have my mother's hands: they're narrow, my fingers thin and bony. I remember staggering out into the field behind Fred's house. Even then I knew I had a secret. I didn't know what it was but I knew it was awful and I just wanted to get away — away from the fire and the noise, away from everybody who seemed to be OK. I knew that I didn't belong, and that was all I wanted — to be safe, to know for just a moment what it was like to not be afraid. And so I staggered out into the field; my shirt was ripped, my hands were cut, my ribs were starting to ache, and all I could think about was how much I wanted my mother to come and take me away.

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Reading Group Guide

1. In the first chapter of the book, we see the main character behaving in ways that are not necessarily likeable. How do we become sympathetic to Neil?

2. What is meant by the title of this book, Diamond Dogs? Who does the title refer to?

3. Neil's ability to play football and his "million dollar arm" provide him with a group identity that serves as a protection for him. It also makes the relationship with his father easier. Despite these advantages Neil quits the football team. Why does he do this? What is it about the accident that triggers his desire to quit?

4. Neil rebels against his father by rejecting the things that his father values such as his own name, Neil, and by embracing the things that his father hates, for example, Nirvana. Why is football the exception?

5. How do Sheriff Garvin's obsessive behaviors affect Neil? How does their shared passion for football relate to this?

6. Describe the conflicted relationships that develop between Burden, Neil, and Sheriff Garvin.

7. After Ian's death, Neil allows himself to become inappropriately intimate with the entire Curtis family. What is his motive for doing this?

8. Sheriff Garvin tells Neil "Like father, like son," which Neil says "scared me more than anything" because Reed's father is an ex-convict. Though this statement is designed to keep Neil away from the Banks family it has the opposite effect. It causes Neil to reform Reed through football and to believe that "a parent could return," as Reed's father did after six years in prison. In this way Reed both terrifies and inspires Neil. How does the accident change this relationship? What is lost? What is gained?

9. How did his mother's leaving affect Neil's relationship with his father? How does it shape them individually?

10. Neil tends to see what he wants to see in regard to his mother. How does his discovery of the truth affect his perception of her?

11. Describe Neil's relationships with women. What purpose does Mary serve for him? For what purpose does he serve her? How do Lenore's actions contribute to Neil's feelings of guilt?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2005

    What an awesome book!!

    This book keeps you in suspence. I couldnt put it down. I dont really like to read but for a book report i read this book and wish it had a sequel. I highly recommend you read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2003

    Caustic...Penetrating.

    What a compelling book!! I read it in 24 hours...the few times I managed to put it down, I could not get Neil off of my mind. This is prime storytelling that captures the devastation of relationships gone bad.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2012

    Intense and Emotionally Gripping

    This book reads like a train that has lost its breaks and is careening out of control at breakneck speed to consummate with its inexorable conclusion of derailment and catastrophic havoc - and you cannot take your eyes off of it the entire time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2003

    Good book

    This shows the relationship between a father and son that should never be. I always read before bed, but this book didn't let that happen. I couldn't stop reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2002

    Diamond Dogs

    this was the best book i have ever read...i didnt really like reading all that much until i read this!! i seriously couldnt put it down!! and absolutly loved the mistery and wonder through out the entire book! it is definatly one of those stories that will stay with me forever, and one of those books i could read over and over!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2002

    Diamond in the Rough

    Fine read, well written. Very suspensful and Watt does a nice job of forshadowing and keeping the reader thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2001

    Couldn't put it down.

    Diamond dogs was one of my favorite books. At first i didn't think it was going to be very good, but it turned out to be better then i expected. It shows how a bad situation can turn out to be the best thing that you could ask for. I recommened this book to older more mature teens. But i defently liked it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2000

    POWERFUL AND ORIGINAL!

    'Diamond Dogs' refers to those elite who possess the talent and the charisma necessary to rise above the pack...and Alan Watt has captured perfectly the double-edged sword that such talent becomes, especially when you're 17-year-old Neil Garvin. His young life changes dramatically one night as he drives drunkenly home from a party, and strikes and kills a fellow student. Not even his Sherrif father can save him from the personal hell that he endures when he makes a series of bad choices. Although the story ends in triumphant redemption, this victory is bittersweet for Garvin and his tormented father. Both have abandonment issues that color their every thought, and by the final page, each deals with those in cataclysmic ways...resulting in one of the most powerfully triumphant stories to grace a page. Watt has captured Neil's tortured soul in an original voice, and aptly portrays the effects of two men's choices that go horribly wrong on a family that is already deteriorating beyond repair. Far from being depressing, 'Diamond Dogs' is hopeful and poetic. A recommended read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2000

    Brilliant new author

    Just finished this novel. Read it in one afternoon. I am very impressed with this author and am now a devout fan. Can't wait for his new work, if and when he completes a second book. This book is intriguing,very fast and easy reading. I recommend this book to anyone, you won't be disappointed. Kudos to the author, thanks for the enjoyable read.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Superb character study

    Seventeen year old Neil (named for the singer Diamond) Garvin is the Carmen, Nevada high school golden boy. Neil, the son of the sheriff, is the very popular quarterback of the football team. However, inside, Neil suffers from the desertion of his mother when he was an infant and the cruelty of his so-called charming father, a closet abuser. Neil has learned abusive behavior from his dad, just ask his mates. <P>At a party, Neil accidentally kills Ian Curtis. While investigating, his father realizes Neil did the crime and covers up his son¿s activities. The townsfolk begin a search for the missing Ian and the lad¿s mother asks her FBI brother for help. As the outsiders come closer to uncovering the truth, the war between father and son is on the brink of exploding. <P> DIAMOND DOG is a well-written character study that portrays the abusive father, but provides a deep scrutiny into the impact of parental dysfunctional behavior on the child. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with emotion and tension, but requires some acceptance of the implausible happening, which surprisingly does not detract from this insightful look at negative nurturing. Although the novel is a police procedural in the widest definition of the sub-genre, Alan Watt¿s novel lights up the family drama fans with a fabulous debut book. <P>Harriet Klausner

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