The Suspect (Joe O’Loughlin 1) by Michael Robotham

the suspectHigh quality thriller…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

When the body of a young woman is found following an anonymous tip-off, coincidentally psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is close to the scene. But when it turns out that he also knew the victim and even had what could be seen as a motive, Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz’s belief in coincidence is stretched past breaking point. As he becomes the chief suspect, Joe finds he must investigate the crime himself to find out why everything about it seems to lead back to him. And suddenly Joe finds himself in danger of losing everything he holds dear – his beloved wife and daughter, his career, perhaps even his life…

Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Robotham’s most recent book, Watching You, I jumped at the chance to backtrack to the first in the Joe O’Loughlin series, currently being reissued in paperback by Mulholland Books. I’m pleased to say that this one shows all the same hallmarks that made the later book so good.

Joe is a likeable protagonist and very well-drawn. As we meet him here for the first time, his life seems fairly idyllic – happy family, a job that he loves, good friends. But we soon discover that even before the crime comes to light Joe’s life has been rocked to its foundations as he has been diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Still in its early stages, it’s not directly affecting Joe’s life too badly yet, but he’s struggling to come to terms with it and his wife feels he’s shutting her out. And his reaction to getting the diagnosis caused him to do some things that are now coming back to haunt him.

The plot twists and turns and keeps some surprises back till the end. Although Joe quickly comes to suspect who’s behind the murders, the mystery is in the how and why of the crimes – not just why the victims are being murdered, but why Joe seems to be being targeted as the fallguy. The pacing falters a bit from time to time – I felt the book could have been shorter without losing anything important – but on the whole it keeps the reader’s attention throughout. There are a few inconsistencies, but nothing too major, and although the story does cross over the credulity line on occasion, the quality of Robotham’s story-telling stops this from being too much of a problem.

Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham

Sadly the book is written in the ever-clumsy first person present tense (will that bandwagon never pass?) so we have exciting bits like Joe possibly drowning but apparently being able to jot down his thoughts contemporaneously – the moral being to always go equipped with a waterproof notebook and pen, I suppose. This did detract from the enjoyment for me, much more than it did in the later book which is also written in the present tense but in the slightly more palatable third person, so it’s good to know that at some point in the series, Robotham has varied the style (note to other authors – try it! Or better yet, try past tense!)

Overall, this is a high quality thriller which confirms that the series is well worth following – I’ll certainly be going on to read the next one, Lost. Although I found the later book Watching You worked fine as a standalone, I enjoyed getting to know the characters and backstories of Joe and Vincent Ruiz better from this one. So despite a few weaknesses, highly recommended – especially if you don’t share my aversion to the dreaded first person present tense.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Mulholland Books.

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22 thoughts on “The Suspect (Joe O’Loughlin 1) by Michael Robotham

  1. FictionFan – I’m glad you enjoyed this one, first person or no. I really like O’Loughlin as a protagonist, myself, and I like the interactions between him and Ruiz. Glad this one didn’t let you down, for the most part.


    • Yes, I like both of them too, and knowing that at some point in the series Robotham gets away from the FPPT means I can look forward to reading the rest… 🙂


  2. I’m afraid I just can’t cope with PTFP – perhaps we could fund-raise for a cure?
    A pity, because this one sounds otherwise quite good.


    • I know – it’s driving me insane. I can’t remember reading many reviews praising the device, so really don’t understand why authors insist on doing it. Probably some self-help writing manual told them it was a sure-fire winner…


  3. *laughing* A waterproof notebook! Lovely ripio!

    The how and why…that’s different, I’d say. And very interesting. I mean, the “why” is always undervalue for some reason. I feel bad for Joe…does he recover at all?


    • *curtseys* Thank you! I hoped you’d enjoy that!

      Yes, I prefer plots that include the ‘why’ rather than just having some psychopath creating mayhem for no apparent reason. Well, he still seems reasonably well in the most recent book, so long as he remembers to take his medication.


    • Yes, I often find myself feeling excluded because of the FP thing – in crime/thrillers often the narrator has to hold stuff back from the reader to maintain the mystery, but knowing that means I end up being distanced and feeling the narrator is manipulating me. Personally I don’t like the present tense either, but I can cope with it better in a third person narrative. The combination of both is just clunky and awful, and so false…in my opinion, of course!


  4. Jotting down my thoughts while I’m in the action is my desired superpower! Book-wise, however, it’s just weird. You are the most prolific reader! I’m feeling like a slacker with my inability to keep up.


    • It’s my pet hate in books, as any of the poor souls who’ve heard me rant about it many times could tell you! 😉

      Haha! I know, and yet I still feel like a slowcoach when I see how much some of the bloggers out there read…


  5. As you will have read my comment on your TBR about not getting into series I will admit being more than a little tempted by this one. I had to smile though when you stated it was first person present tense and then the waterproof notepad and pen turned that into proper chuckle! Thanks for another comprehensive review.


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