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On any given day, the ten separate jails that make up New York City's Rikers Island correctional facility hold between fifteen and eighteen thousand inmates, making it the world's largest penal colony. Of those inmates, some three thousand are classified as mentally ill. That whopping number makes Rikers one of the largest mental institutions in the United States and the best place for a budding forensic psychiatrist like Claire Waters to study the criminal mind.
Claire had worked toward this day for over a decade. After breezing through four years of medical school at Harvard, she completed an internship and residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, considered one of the best and most selective programs in the country. She went on to a prestigious research position at the National Institutes of Health because she wanted to dissect and study the brains of criminals.
But slicing through gray matter and staining slides of neurons every day for three years didn't give her the answers she was looking for. She knew she had to see patients again. Now she was about to begin the last stage of her training, a fellowship in forensic psychiatry, where she'd treat some of the sickest and most twisted minds humanity could imagine.
Most days Claire was a master at hiding in plain sight. She wore her shoulder-length dark brown hair straight, the bangs just long enough to veil questioning green eyes. She never wore lipstick, eye shadow, or blush—anything that might call attention to her beauty. On the subway, at Starbucks, or just walking down the street, she blended in.
But today was different. Instead of her usual soft, well-worn jeans and comfortable, familiar flats, she wore a new, olive green Diane von Furstenberg suit and black Louboutin pumps, neither of which she could afford. The heels protruding from those trademark red soles made a staccato click-clack on the mottled concrete floor of Rikers Island, reverberating against the muddy-brown cinder-block walls, each step reminding her that there was nowhere to hide. Claire felt miserable in her wool suit. What had she been thinking when she bought it? July in New York City was always sticky hot, and the air inside the narrow corridor leading to the cell block was thick with the stench of men who desperately needed a shower.
Claire wore this costume to impress the director of her program, Dr. Paul Curtin, who, despite the oppressive heat, looked remarkably cool in his blue pinstriped Armani suit as he walked beside her. In his midfifties, Curtin drew attention with his wavy silver hair and slateblue eyes. Claire was taller than average at five-seven, not including the heels she wore, but Curtin towered over her with his well-built six-two frame.
He was watching her every move, which only made things worse because she almost always was nervous before the first interview with a new patient. She tried to focus on the case file he'd given her, but her hair was a liability today, swinging into her face and obstructing her view. She was a runner, trim and in great shape, but she struggled to keep up with the man who made sure to tell her that he was a triathlete who ran the New York City Marathon every year.
I'd like to see him walk in these ridiculous shoes and read at the same time, she thought.
"His name is Todd Quimby," Curtin said, his voice coming from a half foot above her head. "Ten months into a one-year sentence for forcible touching."
"What did he do?" Claire asked, thumbing through the file. She was increasingly anxious with each step but was determined not to show it. He gave me Quimby's file only moments before our session because he wants to know right off the bat if I've got the chops, Claire thought.
"He pulled his pants down in front of a bunch of secretaries."
"In their office?"
"At a diner. They'd just ordered a plate of mozzarella sticks when Quimby served up his own."
"That's indecent exposure, not touching," said Claire.
"Weenie waving is called 'public lewdness' in New York State, Dr. Waters. Mr. Quimby crossed the line when one of the ladies pointed out the meager size of his 'portion,' and he tried to get her to eat it."
Claire forced a little smile at his attempt at humor as a guard unlocked the security door and they entered the cell block. Claire turned her attention to the old newspaper clippings in the file. CARNY KILLER GETS LIFE read the front-page headline from the Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The 1985 story had two photos. One was of Beth Quimby, an attractive woman in her late thirties leaving a courtroom in a baggy jumpsuit; the other was of Beth's handsome son Todd, age nine, being comforted by two police officers on the day of the shooting. Claire wondered whether Todd's murdering bitch of a mother gave a damn that her one grandiose act of violence had also killed any chance for her son to have a normal life.
"Whoo-hoo. Yo, baby, let me beast that."
"Bring that kitty over here and I'll give it a good workout."
Claire looked up and saw a dozen inmates leering at her from inside their cells. She wasn't sure whether to smile nonchalantly or act tough in response to their vulgar catcalls. Rats in cages. At least that's something I'm used to.
"Ignore it," Curtin said evenly. "Every one of them would screw their eighty-year-old great-aunt if they could."
Claire realized that he was as comfortable in this hellhole as she wasn't.
"This Mr. Quimby's first time through the system?" Curtin asked.
Claire knew this was a pop quiz; he already had the answer and was testing her again. She flipped through the file and quickly found what she needed.
"No. He has a string of prior arrests. Possession of cocaine, ecstasy, crystal meth; criminal trespass; fourth-degree stalking; third-degree sexual abuse ..."
"Which tells us....?" he asked sharply.
"Um, seemingly minor offenses moving toward the sexual indicate a rapist in the making," Claire replied.
"He's a wannabe, all right," Curtin said. "And your job is to stop him from becoming one."
They turned a corner, arriving at a secure door marked North Infirmary Command—Psychiatric Wing. Curtin pushed the buzzer beside it.
"Doctors Curtin and Waters," he said, holding his ID badge up to an overhead security camera. A buzzer sounded. Curtin pulled the door open and stepped through, neglecting to hold it for Claire. Fortunately, she caught the door just as it was about to slam shut. One more piece of evidence in the case she was building against her new mentor. The charge: jerk in the first degree with a lesser included offense of arrogant bastard.
Deep down, though, Claire understood. She thought of the insults she'd weathered throughout her academic career, the hazing every doctor had to endure. It didn't matter that she'd graduated with honors near the top of her medical school class—she got it just as bad as everyone else. She remembered the nurses who assured her that every first-year psych resident had to bathe the delusional homeless patients. Then, as she naïvely sponged one down, hearing those same nurses laugh outside the door because she "fell for it."
Though she survived every one of those rites of passage and skated through residency, Claire felt lost when it was over. She thought she needed to know more about the dark recesses of the human mind before she took complete responsibility for patients. So at thirty, she decided to apply to one of the most prestigious research fellowships in the country—the National Institutes of Health—where she was immediately accepted and began her study of the neuronal basis of violence and how mental illness was so intimately linked to criminal behavior. She'd treated hundreds of patients with depression, mania, schizophrenia, the whole spectrum of psychiatric disorders, and was convinced that chemical and structural abnormalities in the brain caused the impulses that drove so many people to commit crimes.
Claire Waters was drawn to the patients most psychiatrists labeled as untreatable, hopeless cases with seemingly irreparable minds. Now, as she walked past the prison cells, quickly studying each man's face, she thought, They're not hopeless. We're just not asking the right questions. She was determined to find the right questions in her research, a groundbreaking way of seeing psychopaths not as evil automatons with no conscience, but as individuals who had never felt fear and couldn't see it in others. Even as children, many of the inmates on the psych ward had tortured animals or hurt other kids because, Claire reasoned, they had a profound attention deficit that made it hard, if not impossible, for them to respond to frightening situations. Maybe, just maybe, if Claire and her colleagues could reprogram the circuitry in their brains, they would be able to recognize fear in others, which would prevent them from committing crimes in the future—if and when they were ever released from prison.
It was this groundbreaking work that put Claire on Curtin's radar. He recruited her from NIH with the lure of his prestigious fellowship and the chance to work with, as he called them, "the lepers of the mind." And she had taken his bait.
"I want to fix them, or at least understand them," Claire told Curtin the first time they met when he came to her lab in Washington, DC. "They didn't choose to be the way they are, just like none of us choose our parents or our childhood."
"If you truly want to make a difference, then come with me," he said. "You will help more people in three years in my program than you will in a decade buried in some government lab. And if you get through it, you'll be able to write your own ticket to any job you want."
She will help more people. The words echoed in her mind. So she'd accepted Curtin's offer. And yet here, in the prison, Curtin was aggressively questioning her as if she were a first-year med student. Which she now realized was exactly how he intended to treat her.
Claire decided then that she would beat Curtin at his game. She would always be prepared for anything he tossed at her.
"What else can you tell me about Mr. Quimby that's relevant?" Curtin asked, not missing a beat. He kept his pace, even though she had fallen behind. It was on her to keep up, and she was having a hard time. She told herself to walk faster, think faster, find the answers.
"Once Quimby's mother was convicted," Claire responded, trying not to glance down at the file, "his paternal grandmother was awarded custody of him. She brought him here to New York to live with her, in the same apartment where his father was raised."
"School records?" queried Curtin.
"Straight D student. No college."
"All menial jobs," answered Claire. "Dishwasher, building janitor, security guard. Drove a cab until his first arrest six years ago, after which his hack license was revoked. Since then, he's spent most of his time in and out of jail."
"Lived alone in a studio in Alphabet City. Never married."
"Jail therapy records aren't in the folder."
For the first time since Claire arrived at Rikers Island, she locked eyes with Curtin. From the look on his face, Claire thought he was going to lay into her for not having the answers. But Curtin chose another target.
"Of course you don't have his records," Curtin said. "They're still letting the inmates run the asylum."
Claire knew his cliché carried more than a kernel of truth. In fact, it came from the part of Curtin that Claire had sensed from the beginning wasn't superficial bullshit, the true believer in him Claire both identified with and admired.
Seven years earlier, New York City had contracted with the nation's largest for-profit provider of prison medical services to run the infirmary at Rikers Island. Their idea of quality patient care was to pay certain inmates thirty-nine cents an hour to make sure their cellies on suicide watch didn't off themselves. In short order, the result was six "hang-ups" in six months, the worst jail-suicide record in the country.
At the time, Curtin's star was on the rise. Already in demand as an expert witness, he'd written two books about his groundbreaking research in forensic psychiatry, both of which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. This success led to TV appearances on CNN and what used to be known as Court TV to discuss high-profile criminal trials. His natural gift at gallows humor and his ability to make people laugh about subjects as macabre as anorexia and necrophilia had secured him spots on the talk-show circuit; he'd done Dave, Jay, and Oprah numerous times. In less than a decade, Curtin had become known as "the Dr. Oz of Forensic Psychiatry" or, as his detractors in the psychiatric community preferred, "the Jerry Springer for Serial Killers."
But when pressed, even Curtin's detractors would admit his skill as a showman produced results. He'd convinced numerous juries in execution-happy states to spare the lives of capital defendants whose mental illness drove them to commit murder. And his honesty was without question. More than once, some shyster would try retaining Curtin to confirm a client's bogus insanity defense. Proving he was more than just a highly paid mercenary, Curtin would not only refuse to commit what amounted to perjury, but he also offered in each case to testify against the defendant.
Within his profession, however, Curtin's reputation as the real deal stemmed from something deeper. He believed he could prevent the mentally ill from committing crimes by attacking the problem at its source. And he had at his doorstep the perfect laboratory to prove it.
Curtin viewed the suicide rate among the prisoners at Rikers Island as a moral outrage, a failure of the profession he loved. He knew most of the Psychiatric Wing's inmates had never committed a violent crime and was convinced that early intervention could prevent them from ever doing so. Using his name and prestige to bombard politicians and bureaucrats, he offered the media his services with assurances that he and the students in his fellowship program could make a difference. The city, threatened with state and federal investigations and buried in a PR crisis, was hardly in a position to refuse.
Five years later, suicides at Rikers were at an all-time low, and the recidivism rate among Curtin's patients was one-tenth the jail average. Even the number of mentally ill inmates plummeted because Curtin had convinced the powers-that-be to parole many of his patients, with two conditions: They had to continue psychotherapy, and they had to stay on their meds. The plan seemed to be working, in no small part due to the quality of students Curtin chose for his fellowship.
As they stopped in front of a door marked Patient Interview, Claire Waters knew it was her chance to prove herself fit to reside among Curtin's worthy. This was the moment she had dreaded and driven herself toward for almost ten years. She was both exhilarated and terrified, which she somehow successfully hid under the thinnest veneer of calm. But she knew she'd be all right because she had the gift: the natural ability to put people at ease, to draw out their darkest secrets. Even those she barely knew would sense her deep empathy and open up to her. She was determined to show Curtin her power to connect with the sickest souls.
"What you're about to do is like nothing you've ever done as a psychiatrist before," Curtin said. "Dr. Fairborn and I will be observing you."
"I know," answered Claire.
"Are you ready, Doctor?" Curtin asked.
"Yes, sir," she replied.
"Go get him."
Excerpted from Kill Switch by NEAL BAER JONATHAN GREENE Copyright © 2012 by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 18, 2011
want to open a great book? open this one but be ready to be pushed to the edge. One of the best books I have read all year!
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Posted October 27, 2011
I love mystery books that keep you guessing and throw many different characters into the story. The main character is forensic psychiatrist Claire Waters who you really feel for she has many demons that she is facing included a real one called Quimby. Running from her past when her childhood friend Amy was kidnapped while playing in the driveway together right in front of her she has to face the guilt she is feeling while helping a mentally ill patient get over his demons from his childhood. When released from Rikers's Island Quimby goes on his own killing spree or does he?? This is not your typical mystery things aren't what they seem. There is alot of characters and stories in this one book it will keep you interested and you will fly thru the pages wanted to get to the conclusion. Highly recommend this book . Look forward to any future books this author will have. !!
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2012
Posted February 25, 2012
Reviewed by Lynn F. for Readers Favorite "Kill Switch" by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene is one of those thrillers that keep you guessing right to the end. Written by former producers of Law & Order SVU, the book shows that they have managed to bring that about in their first novel. Claire Waters is a forensic psychiatrist who helps get Todd Quimby out of Rikers Island and on parole. As she dives into his mind she figures that with medication he can lead a normal life. Not long after he is out, a series of murders start happening and the women all resemble Claire. Knowing that Quimby is the killer, she starts to work with Detective Nick Lawler. Trying to keep her safe has been a job in itself and when Claire’s boyfriend is killed this sends Claire over the end. Still remembering her past and not being able to save her best friend from a kidnapper and uncertain death, now she has caused the death of her boyfriend. Finally she catches up with Quimby as his car goes in the river, but something strange shows up in the autopsy. Could he have had a partner? Is he the killer or was it someone else? When I started reading this book I found it very hard to put down. It is a very captivating thriller and, being a fan of SVU, I could see this played out in my mind as I read on. The plot has many twists and turns and has a surprise ending. It won’t do any good to go to the back of the book as you won’t find out anything. With the emphasis placed so much on Quimby, I couldn’t quite place my finger on it being him or if he was being set up. I like the characters of Claire and Nick but did not like to see them trying to work through former problems. The only problem I found with Claire was her penchant for getting into trouble. She did things that could have put her own life and that of others at risk and led me to believe she should have got a job working undercover instead of forensics. If you like Law and Order SVU, then I feel you will enjoy this book. I would like to see more of Claire Waters in the future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 11, 2012
Claire Waters is a forensic psychiatrist. Todd Quimby is a dysfunctional screw up. Nick Lawler is a good detective going blind. Throw them together and you get a twisty turny mystery that needs to be solved.
This book is authored by two guys associated with Law & Order: SVU. I’ve never watched that particular show, but I do love Law & Order: CI and shows like CSI, Bones, Cold Case, Without a Trace, Monk, NCIS, etc. etc. So though I usually would watch something like this story on television I do like to read a good mystery every now and again.
This was a great story. The characters were believable, the plot twisty, the writing smooth. It started off a bit slow with some background info interspersed with the mystery, but I like info, so it didn’t bother me. Then when I thought the case was put to rest yet had half a book left to read I was wondering where this story was going. The case didn’t seem to fit together very well, as if we were missing something. Something important. The middle lagged a bit, but picked right back up when the trail got hot again.
I have to say the ending surprised me. I love not figuring out how a story is going to end. It drives me crazy…in a good way. I’d read more stories by Baer and Greene and hope they collaborate again.
*The publisher provided a copy of this book to me for review. Please see disclaimer page on my blog.
Posted February 6, 2012
Dr. Claire Waters, a crackpot psychiatrist, able to diagnose her patients needs with a clarity undefined. Her all encompassing interest is the study of the brain as it relates to the criminal mind lead her to the renowned Dr. Paul Curtain. Claire is confident that Dr. Curtain’s exclusive fellowship program will provide her with the opportunity she believes will be her final step in the completion of her research in the field of forensic psychiatry. Dr. Curtain’s research revolves around the study of mentally ill minds contained in criminals incarcerated within the walls of the Rikers Island criminal facility. Having worked the last three years in the laboratory slicing into the brain matter of mentally ill minds, Claire’s need to be face to face with patients once again draws her in a way she cannot deny. This she finds true however, until she meets the criminal who is to be her first patient, Todd Quimby. Quimby who at all turns seems to see straight through Claire with clarity of his own, which touches too close to the life altering secret Claire keeps threatening her judgment. A call in the middle of the night puts Claire to the test, as she must come to terms with the result her professional diagnosis. Evidence leads her to believe she may have misinterpreted the signs and she is determined to prove herself wrong. A forced alliance with Detective Nick Lawler, who is harboring his own secret, is the only means with which Claire can ensure the answers she seeks in both the present and the past. Claire and Nick too soon find themselves caught up in a scheme so far removed from anything a criminal mind can conceive, which puts them in danger at every turn. Kill Switch is the debut, fast-paced page-turner from the co-producers of the hit television program Law and Order SUV. A must read, and hopeful continuation.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2012
Claire Waters is still working through her childhood trauma. When she was only 8, her best friend was grabbed out of her driveway while they were playing. She can’t forget those life changing minutes and is haunted by her friend’s last moments of life. She is now a forensic psychiatrist and hopes to help understand the criminal min. She is sent in to assess Todd Quimby before his release from prison so see if he is ready for release and to be his counselor in the outside world. Is Quimby just misunderstood and suffering from a childhood trauma, or is he a serial killer who is now focused on his pretty new doctor? Det. Nick Lawler is finally cleared of any charges in his wife’s death, and just in time since his first case is almost identical to the last murder he was investing a year ago. Same m.o., same pretty blonde. Is this random or a serial killer? If so, where has this killer been for the last year? This was a very interesting thriller. Really held your interest in the story. There are a lot of things going on in this story and a lot of it involves past traumas suffered by the main characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2012
Posted January 16, 2012
All I can say is WOW! It was a great read from start to finish. I love Law & Order SVU and when I heard this book was like the show I had to read it. It was amazing how the 2 stories become 1 different thrilling story. Can't wait to read the next novel!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2012
Posted January 6, 2012
This is a three/three and a half star book until about page 200, then it takes off and is a five all the way, in fact it was so good from that point on, I forgot that it started slow and in my opinion a little disjointed. But once I hit around page 200 I could nbot stop reading and did not stop. Likely 100 pages left isn't much to get through but it was amazing, quite a roller coaster. To me, these Law and Order writers did not recreate the show in their writing, in fact other than the fact that it utilized a law enforcement and psychiatrist backdrop, it was not like the show. That is not a good thing and not a bad thing, it is a stand alone read, that could easily be made into a series, there are some things I would like to see Claire waters do.
Posted December 26, 2011
Baer and Greene take us on a beautifully crafted and skillfully developed story that twists and turns from beginning to end. The character development and stories within stories make Kill Switch a marvelous mystery thriller. This one is a great page turner. I excitedly await their next book!
Marc Levitt, Ph.D.
Posted December 22, 2011
To say Kill Switch is a page-turner is an understatement. At several points, I had to put the book down and walk away because my adrenaline was pumping rigorously! Having been a fan of Law and Order for years, I was very much aware of the action-packed pages. At points, I was actually breathless as I read. Family members in the room would talk to me, and I heard nothing! I was totally engrossed in the book.
To the authors of Kill Switch, I say WELL DONE! I would read another one by them, and I have recommended this one to just about everyone I know.
Posted December 21, 2011
Character development was weak and often unrealistic psychiatrists dont treat patients in the way described could have been better had the people been believableWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2012
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Posted March 11, 2012
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Posted January 1, 2012
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Posted January 18, 2012
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