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Death of a Thousand Cuts    by Barbara D'Amato Amazon.com order for
Death of a Thousand Cuts
by Barbara D'Amato
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Barbara D'Amato, winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award, presents a compelling account of murder and autism in Death of a Thousand Cuts. Odd combination? Yes. But totally believable as D'Amato unfolds a tale about the Hawthorne House School for the Treatment of Autistic Children and those who passed through its doors.

Hawthorne House has been closed for fifteen years when a reunion is suggested. Its director, Jay Schermerhorn, and various former counselors and residents, return for a weekend of remembrances. When Schermerhorn is murdered, the task of interrogating autistic adults falls to Detective Emily Folkestone and her partner Ollie. Tightly written and fast-paced, this mystery will keep you furiously turning pages. The conditions of autism and Aspergers have always interested me and I found D'Amato's handling of sensitive sufferers to be well done.

Schermerhorn turns out to be a very controversial figure both beloved and hated. Sure in his conviction that his method of treating victims of this debilitating condition is the only one, he bulldozed his way through the world and convinced medical people that he was a saint. While the reader can take solace in the fact that the book is a work of fiction, the idea that this particular scenario could be truth is frightening. I can relate in a small way because I searched for years for help for my son and never found an answer.

D'Amato's characterizations scream reality and I like the way she has built self-doubt into Emily Folkestone. Her in-depth study of the autistic players is brilliant. This is mystery at its best.

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