Finger by Finger: a review of Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Atlantic Monthly Press
Ms. LaPlante employs an unreliable narrator (Jennifer) to relate the story of her own descent into the madness of Alzheimer's. The reader is obliged to fill in the blanks left by her failing memory with the help of only a few supporting characters identified through italicized text. Amanda, it turns out, has been brutally murdered, four fingers of one hand surgically removed, posthumously. Jennifer, who, at this point, cannot remember even her caretaker whom she sees daily, not to mention her children, Mark and Fiona, who visit sporadically throughout, is, whether because of or regardless of her affliction, a person of interest in the crime. Slowly but surely a mystery unfolds, transforming the novel from psychological drama to mystery/thriller by its conclusion. By no means is this a bad thing. Contrarily, it sharpens the initially blurry tale, slowly removing one gauzy layer at a time.
"I remember my first wrist arthrodesis. The pressure of knife against skin, the slight give when it finally sliced through. The resilience of muscle. My surgical scissors scraping bone And afterwards, peeling off the bloody gloves finger by finger."For a first novel, Ms. LaPlante show much restraint. She ends the mystery with a neck-jerking twist that is only subtly telegraphed. But she demonstrates a seasoned skill of the mystery yarn: knowing how to peel the bloody glove off.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1 edition (July 5, 2011)