Brother turns on brother to Claire Waters is a dedicated forensic psychiatrist with unnervingly personal insights into the criminal mind. Haunted by a disturbing childhood incident, Claire has always been drawn to those rare "untreatable" patients who seem to have no conscience or fear. But one shocking case could make or break her career - and it's waiting for her in the psychiatric wing of New York City's Rikers Island. Quimby is a deranged inmate whose boyish good looks hide a sordid history of dysfunction and abuse, and he triggers something in Claire she'd rather not face. As she tries to unlock Quimby's past, she leaves herself dangerously vulnerable. When the case propels her into the mind of another killer - a homicidal maniac who's watching her every move - it could only end in madness, or murder, or both...Brilliantly constructed and breathtakingly suspenseful, Kill Switch is a masterful combination of murder, mystery, and modern forensics - and a stunning debut from a spectacular writing team.
A Conversation with authors Neal Baer and Jonathan Green
Q: What was your writing process like for Kill Switch
Neal Baer: We started out with an idea about this character of Claire Waters, a forensic psychiatrist, going to deal with a serial killer who’s being paroled, and how his behaviors start to affect her, then we devised the story. The process is very much like television, we spent a lot of time talking about the plot and what the fundamental issues of the book were. How does Claire deal with her past? How do we show the difference between faith and science? Why is she looking for a scientific explanation? Issues that percolate in the book came through our sitting there for hours talking through it and writing it on a board.
Jon Greene: We spent hundreds of hours talking through the story to get it to the outline stage so we knew what the plot was. Neal has a medical background and I have background in journalism and also working with police officers. It was a really good collaboration; the process was very easy, and also liberating to write when you’re working with someone you know and trust. We found ourselves polishing each other’s work.
Q: What was your approach for writing a female protagonist?
Neal Baer: I had met women who were psychiatrists while in medical school, so I had a sense of what they were like and how they were different from women who were in other medical specialties. They were more analytical and focused on the emotional issues in a patient. I was interested in women who are trying to find biological explanation for criminal behavior. Our approach to writing Claire Waters was that she was very scientific, but she’s trying to escape from her own issues too. If Claire wants to fix her problems she finds her own way.
Jon Greene: What was so fun about writing her was that it’s a very real way of going through life…sometimes we find ourselves doing things we would not do just to find the truth. Very much like the character Olivia Benson we wrote for Mariska Hargitay, she was also looking for answers.
Q: How did your love of classic film inspire your writing in Kill Switch?
Jon Greene: There are some classic film references in the book. Neal and I are both fans of the movie Vertigo Limits directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Neal thinks Vertigo is the most interesting Hitchcock movie because it is layered visually and psychologically. When we were writing Kill Switch we were able to pull elements of Vertigo as homage.
Neal Baer: Another classic film reference is a film the opposite of Vertigo—in the sense it is about obsession and Vertigo is a romantic film—is The Big Heat by Fritz Lang in the early 50s. It’s a beautifully constructed film about a corrupt town and a cop determined to do everything he can to help, but losing his soul in the process. Only with the relationship of a bad woman was he able to find redemption. When you read Kill Switch, and if you see the films, you’ll be able to illustrate things that happen in the book. I love characters that are off the edge and even sometimes fall off the edge. Obsession makes for great drama. Readers will find obvious illusions and anagrams in the book; you can even unscramble characters names and find they are similar to characters in The Big Heat and Vertigo. It may also help readers figure out different twists and turns in the book.
Q: What is next for the character Claire Waters?
Neal Baer: Claire has started a journey, and now we want to see where she ends. As a first year fellow, she needs to study and learn how to deal with criminals who are in prison and being paroled, and then maybe she’ll ultimately be on her own. She still has some learning and growing to do, and she has to get through some tragedies that have happened in her life. Claire will be able to do this in the next two books. She will also have the chance try out some different roles. First, she starts as a student and the she will get more leadership positions. She is a learner, then she will be a doer and she may even be a teacher. She is only 30; she has a huge career ahead of her. She has been pushed into roles she never experienced before.
A promising forensic psychiatrist with a prestigious fellowship for work with violent mental patients and an NYPD detective, newly reinstated to duty after being suspected of murdering his wife, team up to catch a serial killer. Both have deeply hidden secrets that may limit their effectiveness. Dr. Claire Waters still feels guilty about the kidnapping of her best friend by a murderous abuser many years earlier, and Detective Nick Lawler has retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable disease that leads to blindness. When Claire suspects that her patient, Todd Quimby, is killing young women after his release from Rikers Island, she goes to police and takes an active role in the case that Nick leads. He in turn helps her reach closure on the case that has haunted her since childhood. Nagging loose ends remain, leading to deadly risk for the protagonists and a suspenseful (if a bit contrived) conclusion. Still, characters and dialogue ring true in this promising debut by the former executive producers of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. --Michele Leber