Interview Room

Interview Room

by Roderick Anscombe

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Interview Room by Roderick Anscombe


In a drab room in a hospital for the criminally insane, Dr. Paul Lucas can tell whether a patient is lying or lost, salvageable, evil, or insane. Paul interviews criminals and killers all the time. But he has never had an interview like this one...


Craig Cavanaugh is accused of stalking a female Harvard instructor. With his good looks, intelligence, and money, Craig has no doubt that he can outsmart his doctor, that love will excuse his actions, and money will set him free. And Paul is about to discover how right—and how dangerous—Craig really is.


Suddenly, Paul's personal life is imploding. His beautiful wife is tied to a sordid murder. And his grip on his profession and even his sanity is slipping... What began with a typical, carefully controlled session in the interview room has turned into this: Paul faces a master manipulator—with no rules, no walls, and only one way out...

"Riveting…the kind of mainstream appeal associated with Harlan Coben and Jonathan Kelerman…don't wait for the movie."


"A new kind of thriller—provocative, entertaining, and morally chilling…An absorbing novel."

New York Times bestselling author Perri O'Shaughnessy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312994938
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/06/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.22(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Roderick Anscombe is a forensic psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has worked in a maximum-security prison, evaluating and treating the criminally insane, including serial killers, sociopaths, stalkers, and other violent criminals. The author of two previous novels, The Secret Life of Laszlo and Count Dracula, he lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Visit to learn more.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I dreaded the dream. I lay awake beside my wife and each time I started to nod off, I'd jerk myself back from the brink. It wasn't even a real dream. It was a memory that possessed me while I lay trapped in sleep, the sequence playing out time and again.

The dream begins slowly, with a vague unease, as Abby and I drive in the car with Adrian. Gradually, like a whistle rising in pitch, the anxiety increases. When I recognize what is about to happen, the fear intensifies quickly. We approach the traffic lights. The emotion is unbearable—not just fear, but anguish at what I can't prevent.

Sometimes I cry out at this point and wake, but not this night.

It's almost a relief when the real danger emerges—a flinching awareness, just before the moment of impact, of the pickup truck barreling through the red light.

The dream doesn't bother with dazed confusion, pain, vision obscured by blood, helpers who gathered outside the crushed car, frantic efforts to free us. It goes straight to the heart of the matter. Abby, in the passenger seat, turns to me. My mind is working effectively in trauma-center mode, ticking off the pallor of her skin and the sheen of sweat on her forehead that indicate impending shock from internal bleeding. But she's trapped by the twisted metal of what was the passenger door. She's asking for Adrian. I can't turn my head to see him. With terrible dream prescience, I already know of the horror in the back, where our two-year-old son is strapped in his car seat.

I stand outside the car. I have to hide Adrian's injuries from Abby. She reaches out her hands to take him from me, but I make a show of cuddling the body and rocking him in my arms as if to comfort him, as if he's still alive. I have his good side facing her. His eyes are closed. He might be asleep. I show her how my fingers trace the nebular spiral of his fine, blond hair.

I was sitting bolt upright in bed. Abby was shaking my shoulder. She was telling me to wake up.

"What happened?" I asked, dazed by the horror.

"You were dreaming," Abby said. "You screamed."


I put my hand to my face and found it wet with tears. Adrian had died a year ago, but it felt like yesterday.

Abby stroked my back rhythmically, and with each motion of her hand I felt some of the dread melt away.

"Try to sleep," she said.

We lay together with our arms around one another, but it wasn't working, and after a few minutes we rolled apart. Our separate griefs combined like the feedback when you bring a microphone so close to a loudspeaker that it shrieks. Some couples fake orgasms. We faked sleep. We lay close and tried to breathe with the profound regularity of sleepers while our minds worked over memories of Adrian and came to the dead end of his loss.

When the call came early that morning, I'd been up for several hours.

I don't like being called at home. One of the benefits of being a forensic psychiatrist is that my patients are safely locked away where they can't do any harm. It's not that I don't want to be bothered. I work long hours. Sometimes, by the time I arrive home, Abby has given up on me and I find her curled up in bed with a book. I put myself into my work, drawn by the extremes of human experience that I investigate at the Sanders Institute. But the raw emotion has to stay there; perhaps because I'm able to keep the two worlds separate, I rarely connect the violent crimes of my patients with the accident that killed my son. I can tolerate the descent into barbarism precisely because I can leave it behind. I can bear almost anything—heartrending sorrow, manic rage, the recounting of evil acts that cause me to question the very nature of humanity—but at the end of the day I have to be sure that it's sealed off by the heavy steel doors that slam shut after me. I'm uneasy when it leaks into my home along a telephone wire.

I'd told the people at Sanders I was going to write up some reports and would be in late. I was in the kitchen, filling the pot of the coffeemaker at the faucet and gazing through the window at waves breaking on the rocks where our property meets the Atlantic. No one but Sanders would call me at seven in the morning, and I let the phone ring a couple of times while debating whether to ignore it. Then, above me, I heard the thump of the shower door thrown back and the pad of bare feet.

"I'll get it," I called.

But right after I answered the phone, I heard the click as Abby picked up. The person at the other end was already talking. Abby didn't say anything. Out of context, I didn't at first recognize the voice of Larry Shapiro.

"You have a 401(k), right, Paul?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.

It seemed like a strange time for my boss to inquire about my retirement. I'm forty-one, and always assumed that that day was a long way off. In the years I'd worked under him, Larry hadn't shown much solicitude for my welfare. I wondered if he was preparing to tell me I was being let go.

"Who's it with?" he asked.

In the background, I heard the soft click of Abby hanging up, and a few seconds later the slide of the glass door as she returned to the shower.

"Cavanaugh, I think."

"Exactly!" Larry exclaimed.

Larry is chairman of the psychiatry department at New England Methodist Hospital and full professor at Harvard Medical School. He isn't given to business calls before the workday begins. They're not his style. Early rising, missed lunches, working late—this kind of striving smacks of a materialism that offends Larry's sixties sensibility. The ponytail is gone and the raven black hair is graying; the brown corduroy jacket with the leather elbow patches was long ago recycled through the Salvation Army. Larry no longer calls you "man." His genial, spacey manner encourages the impression that he simply floated down into his position atop the medical school pinnacle, instead of winning it through a mixture of shrewd choice of research focus, a politician's sharp elbows, and plain old hard work.

"He's the only male of his generation," Larry was saying. "He's the prince. You see what I'm saying, Paul?"

Conversation with Larry is like playing in a baseball game in which the first baseman might be the one to throw the pitch. Or the umpire.

"What I'm having difficulty with, Larry," I said, "is figuring out how this ties in to me."

He sighed with impatience. "The Cavanaugh Mutual Fund Family! Cavanaugh Wealth Management! Okay? That's who the kid is. Prince Cavanaugh. They're sending him to your place for a period of observation."

"What's his crime?"

"That's the point, Paul. It's nothing. Some bullshit charge. Violation of a restraining order on a girlfriend. Jesus! If they'd had laws like this when I was dating, I'd have spent my whole frigging adolescence in the slammer. But there it is. The family's freaking out. The prince is going to prison and he hasn't even been found guilty. They're real upset. Obviously."

The Cavanaughs are the kind of family whose upset sends tremors through their immediate surroundings. Their upset is measured on the Richter scale. They are major donors to the New England Methodist Hospital. When the hospital was on the brink of bankruptcy during the Medicare cutbacks ten years ago, it was John Cavanaugh who personally shepherded the hospital's bond issue to market. In fact, the psychiatry department occupies three floors of the Cavanaugh Pavilion.

"We wanted him here," Larry was saying. "At the Methodist. Judy O'Donnell was all set to do the evaluation. The lawyer told the judge, 'Hey, if it's a question of security, the family will spring for a private duty cop twenty-four/seven outside the kid's door.' But the DA objected on some technicality—the Cavanaughs are paying for the cop so there's a conflict of interest. I don't see it myself. Maybe you have to be a lawyer. The judge wavered. As soon as he started fussing with papers you could tell he wasn't going to buy it."

"You were there," I said.

Even Larry was momentarily at a loss to explain why the chief of psychiatry of a Harvard teaching hospital would attend this arraignment. "As an observer," he allowed. "Lending support to the family. The New England Methodist community reaching out. You know how it is. Politics. Anyway, the judge went with the DA."

"Brenda Gorn," I told him.

"I'll tell you, she was one tough mama."

"She's very good. I work with her quite a bit."

"But hell, Paul, the kid's a senior at Harvard. All but graduated. His whole life's in front of him. A place in the Cavanaugh Family of Funds. Starting at the top. What's he going to do to jeopardize that?"

People who don't know crime, even well-versed psychiatrists like Larry, have no appreciation of the truly trivial motivations that impel people to murder.

"And this is a kid who needs to be locked up?" Larry asked. "In your place?"

"Brenda's a stickler," I said lamely.

"Anyway, the judge went with her." He sighed. "And I got a call from John Cavanaugh."

From the moment I'd recognized his voice on the phone I'd been asking him silently, "Why are you calling me, Larry? What's the message?" Now I prepared myself to receive the pitch, though I knew well enough what it would be: Tread carefully. Do nothing to antagonize the Cavanaughs. Nothing that would jeopardize their generosity to the New England Methodist Hospital.

Copyright © 2005 by Roderick Anscombe. All rights reserved.

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Interview Room 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
readerIN More than 1 year ago
First in two books about this character Dr. Lucas, I hope more to come. Hard to do original plots anymore, how many times can you reinvent the wheel. But you will not be disappointed in this book. Once you start, you will keep going. I was so happy I found this writer. Thanks for an excellent story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nearly a very good book. I did enjoy this one, but there were some flaws. Anscombe is a forensic psychiatrist, which may explain why this book seems to come from a forensic psychiatrist and not a seasoned writer. The idea for the book is excellent, but it falls short of expectations with a duller than expected ending. Craig is obviously the bad guy in the book - I'm not spoiling anything there - it's in the summary, but there are sections of the book where you don't hear about him and you wonder where he went. You can only hear about Paul worrying about his marriage so much. Again, the idea was great, and the potential was there, but the book falls short of a hit. It is a quick read if the summary sounds interesting, otherwise you may want to leave this on the shelf. Whether you take it or leave it, after a week or so, you won't even remember what happened in it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a story! Taut and suspenseful, just what I expected from a real forensic psychologist writing fiction about, you guessed it, a main character who is a forensic psychologist. Like CSI? Like suspense? Like a twist at the very end? Buy The Interview Room.