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Cassidy & Spenser Thriller #4
Carey Baldwin

Witness Impulse
2/14/17/ ISBN 9780062495495
Thriller / FBI

Reviewed by Elsie Cooper


Stolen, by Carey Baldwin, is a riveting thriller. It intertwines issues involving family and mental illness within relationships, a murder, and a kidnapping. What makes this psychological story even more compelling is the mind games the characters play with each other.

Baldwin was influenced by her fascination with the old time movie, Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. “In this movie that I just love, Ingrid Bergman is a psychologically vulnerable women who’s been through a tremendous trauma, witnessing the murder of her aunt. Charles Boyer is her villainous husband who tries to make her question her own sanity. This is a classic and speaks of mind games where over time she grows to believe what is told to her even though it contradicts what she actually saw.”

Right from the very first page readers will be swept up into the plot. Baldwin is one of those authors who has a knack for keeping people guessing as to where the plot is headed by building suspense and intrigue. Because an important Senator’s daughter, Laura Chaucer, has disappeared, Dr. Caitlin Cassidy and FBI profiler Atticus Spenser are called in to investigate. Through it they find that thirteen years ago Laura and her nanny had been kidnapped, with the end result of Laura being rescued and the nanny found dead. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Grady Webber, tries to lead the investigators to think she is unstable, a danger to herself, and capable of murder. What Cassidy and Spenser must sort out: is Laura a killer, or is there a monster lurking who is out to get her and others?

Many of the supporting characters are very interesting and will draw strong emotions from readers. Dr. Webber gives psychiatrists a bad name. Not only did he have a short affair with his resident, Caitlin, but he is also a manipulative jerk. Anyone that knows the story of Brian Wilson’s psychiatrist can believe how Webber tries to foster dependence as he plays mind games with his patient. A quote hammers the point home, “Laura Chaucer’s been walking around with a time bomb inside her. And Grady Webber has the nuclear codes.”

Part of the reason the author made Webber so evil was to “throw my pet peeves into Grady’s behavior. I really hate Polypharmacy where drugs are given for all reasons. I put in the book how Laura was prescribed drugs for anxiety and as a sleep aid. With all of these it is a wonder Laura did not sleepwalk through life. Webber gave drugs in lieu of therapy.”

As much as readers will hate Webber, they will gravitate towards Laura. The center point of current and past investigations, she felt people were constantly pointing fingers at her. Growing up under those circumstances of having a stigma hanging over her, she became addicted to therapy and the drugs handed to her by Webber. Eventually she begins to wonder if her manipulator’s world view is correct, or if there are other answers, realizing just because people say things does not necessarily make them true.

Baldwin noted, “I enjoyed writing Laura’s character. She is someone extremely damaged, but has survived. She has an inner strength. A lot of people would have crumpled with the pressure she was under, but she did not.”

Fans of Caitlin and Spenser will enjoy their working and personal relationship as it develops in this book. They become a more formidable team, battling Caitlin’s past with Webber and the murderer. With the relationship becoming more serious, Baldwin believes “I can have the constant tease, the romantic tension that is so organic. But I do not like playing the game as we saw between the Friend’s characters, Ross and Rachel. After awhile it becomes frustrating. In my next book they will have some rest and relaxation in Tahiti. Then all hell breaks loose as they are dragged in by the local authorities after witnessing something.”

Also, sprinkled throughout the book are psychological theories. Baldwin uses her vast experience as a pediatrician and psychologist to inform readers. They learn about compartmentalization, which allows for people to leave deep dark holes in their memories. It is a defense mechanism that shuts out traumatic memories so the person can function in life. They will also learn about “magical thinking” and “survivor’s guilt.” Because she does not become overly technical, these little tidbits add to the storyline.

This is a fast moving mystery that is gripping. The subplots add to the momentum of the plot and enhance the many twists and turns. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they are kept guessing as to what will happen next.

Previous reviews for this series:

Stolen #4
Countdown #5

Reviewed 2017