Shatter by Michael Robotham

Recently, I found myself cruising NetGalley needing something different – something lighter, yet darker all at the same time.  When I stumbled upon Shatter by Michael Robotham, I noticed that Stephen King had endorsed the story, citing it as his most suspenseful read of the year.  Trusting Mr. King, I clicked request.

Joe O’Loughlin’s first day of teaching psychology at a local university ends on a bridge trying to talk down a woman who’s perched to jump.  With a cell phone clutched to her ear, she explains to him that ‘he wouldn’t understand’ and throws herself into the icy waters below.  The next morning, Darcy, teenager claiming to be the suicide victim’s daughter, knocks on Joe’s door insisting that her mother would never kill herself, especially not jumping off a bridge as she was extremely afraid of heights.  Quickly, Joe realizes that whoever was on the other end of that cell phone coerced his victim into killing herself and he won’t be stopping there.

While I don’t entirely agree with Stephen King’s summation that this novel is intensely suspenseful, I did enjoy reading it from beginning to end.  I tend to shy away from mystery/thrillers because they start to feel a bit too plastic and procedural – both in writing and on screen.  Thankfully, Shatter felt fresh to me.  First, we’re following a trained psychiatrist who is observing the crimes through behavioral analysis which I find fascinating.  I can watch documentaries about serial killers and how their brains work all day long.  Knowing this about myself, I seek these sorts of books out when I’m in a particular mood, and the only crime procedural I watch on television is Criminal Minds which follows the behavioral analysis unit of the FBI.

Also, there are so many other interesting sub-plots here beyond the main catch a killer plot.  This aspect is highlighted by the fact that we know who the killer is halfway through the novel – we even get bits and pieces of narration from his perspective scattered throughout story.  This allows the reader to focus, not on figuring out whodunit, but the why and how it was actually done.  We’re also privy to Joe’s personal life – his battle with Parkinson’s disease, his crumbling marriage, his relationships with his daughters, and just the uncertainties experienced in middle life.

So, no, I’m not going to shout from the rooftops about Shatter, but I think it’s worth a read when you need something different or when you want to delve into a well written psychological thriller.  The pages turn freely and the only complaint I really had was how unlikeable Joe’s wife was – the story would have benefited from her character being a bit more sympathetic.  And don’t despair about this book being part of a series (Shatter is the third book).  I read without knowing this detail and never felt lost or that the back story was lacking.  Robotham is an author I’ll definitely turn to again when I need a little literary break.

Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

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4 thoughts on “Shatter by Michael Robotham

  1. This does sound a little more unusual than your typical thriller, and I like that it has several layers aside from the mystery aspect. I also like that you can read this one as a standalone, and can judge for yourself if this is a series that works for you. Great review today! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts!

    • I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I suspect it’s mostly because I rarely read in this genre so the stories always feel new and exciting.

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