Every Fifteen Minutes
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Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife, Caitlin, he is doing his best as a single dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric’s entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can’t turn off the rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a “person of interest”. Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric’s life?
“Nail-biting…heart-pounding climaxes…pulse-racing twists. Scottoline grabs her readers by the jugular and won’t let go.”
– Library Journal (starred review)
“Scottoline has plenty of tricks up her sleeve.”
– Booklist (starred review)
“A mounting-stakes actioner”
– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Scottoline casts an unflinching eye on the damaged world of sociopaths in this exciting thriller”
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Every Fifteen Minutes
By Lisa Scottoline
I’m a sociopath. I look normal, but I’m not. I’m smarter, better, and freer, because I’m not bound by rules, law, emotion, or regard for you.
I can read you almost immediately, get your number right away, and push your buttons to make you do whatever I want. I don’t really like you, but I’m so good at acting as if I do that it’s basically the same thing. To you.
I fool you.
I fool everybody.
I’ve read that one out of twenty-four people is a sociopath, and if you ask me, the other twenty-three of you should be worried. One out of twenty-four people is 4 percent of the population, and that’s a lot of sociopaths. Anorexics are 3 percent, and everybody talks about them. Schizophrenics are only 1 percent, but they get all the press. No one’s paying any attention to sociopaths, or they think we’re all killers, which is a misconception.
It’s not being paranoid to worry about us. You should be more paranoid than you are. Your typical suburban mom worries all the time, but she worries about the wrong things.
Because she doesn’t worry about me.
People think evil exists in the form of terrorists, murderers, and ruthless dictators, but not in “normal” people like me. They don’t realize that evil lives on their street. Works in the cubicle next to them. Chats with them in the checkout line at CVS. Reads a paperback on the train next to them. Runs on a treadmill at their gym.
Or marries their daughter.
We’re here, and we prey on you.
We target you.
We groom you.
I took a sociopath test, not ofﬁcially, of course. Only trained professionals can administer the real test, called the Hare test, but I found a version of it online. The ﬁrst two questions went like this:
1. I am superior to others. Circle one: Doesn’t apply to me. Partially applies to me. Fully applies to me.
2. I would not feel sorry if someone were blamed for something I did. Circle one: Doesn’t apply to me. Partially applies to me. Fully applies to me.
There were twenty questions, and forty was the top score. I scored a thirty-eight, which means I would be graduating with honors if I majored in being a sociopath.
I didn’t need the test to tell me who I was, anyway.
I already knew.
I have always known.
I don’t have any feelings, neither love nor hate, no like or dislike, not even a thumbs-up or thumbs-down like on Facebook.
I do have a Facebook account, however, and I have a respectable number of friends.
Ask me if I care.
Actually, I think it’s funny they’re my friends, because they have no idea who I am. My face is a mask. I hide my thoughts. My words are calculated to please, charm, or undermine. I can sound smarter or dumber, depending on what you expect to hear. My actions further my self-interest.
I’m neither your friend nor your frenemy, unless you have what I want.
In that case, I’m not only your enemy, I’m your nightmare.
I get bored easily.
I hate to wait for anything.
Waiting makes me so restless, and I’ve been in this room for hours, even this video game is boring. God knows what idiots are playing online right now, forming their pimple-faced teams, exploring dungeons, going on quests, killing dragons, hookers, and Nazis, all of them playing a role.
I wonder if whoever invented World of Warcraft realizes it’s practice for sociopaths.
The gamers I play online name themselves KillerCobra, SwordofDeath, and Slice&Dice, but I bet they’re in middle school.
Or law school.
If one out of twenty-four people is a sociopath, I’m not the only gamer who tried to burn the house down.
My character name is WorthyAdversary.
I role-play every day in real life, so I’m very good at gaming.
I’m always a step ahead, maybe two.
I plan everything. I set everyone in motion, and when the moment comes, I strike.
I always win, in the end.
They never see me coming.
Because I’m already there.
Every Fifteen Minutes
Questions for Book Clubs
- Sociopaths are very difficult to unmask, and we they are capable of fooling almost everyone. What did you learn about sociopaths by reading Every Fifteen Minutes? Have you ever encountered a sociopath in your life? If so, what effects did it have on your life? What makes sociopaths especially dangerous, and what are some of the red flags we should heed?
- When Dr. Eric Parrish is desperate to find who may have killed a teenage girl, the first place he turns is Facebook, which is full of all kinds of information. How do you use social media, and what kind of restrictions do you place on yourself or kids? Have you ever posted something and then regretted it? What are the positive uses for social media? What are the downsides?
- Eric and Caitlin have different parenting styles and different ideas about how to respond to Hannah’s anxiety. What was your reaction to their different styles and the way they dealt with co-parenting? Did you consistently find yourself siding with one parent over the other? In what ways would you have handled the situation differently?
- The Tarasoff case highlights the unique position that psychiatrists are in, as they have a responsibility to protect not only their patients, but also other people from potential harm done by their patients. Eric considers whether he has a Tarasoff issue with Eric, but is reluctant to act too quickly because of the repercussions. Did you agree or disagree with Eric’s decision, why or why not? What potential conflicts does the Tarasoff issue raise?
- Max has a very special relationship to his grandmother, and more and more, grandparents are helping raise their grandchildren. In what way is the grandparent relationship different from the parental relationship? What are the downsides to a child being reared by a grandparent instead of a traditional parent? What are the benefits?
- Eric had a responsibility to uphold the patient-doctor confidentiality, and he does so with vehemence, even when breaking it could work in Jason’s favor. Under what circumstances do you think it is okay for a doctor to reveal confidential patient information? Did you agree or disagree with Eric’s decisions? Why or why not? Do you think Eric was more so trying to protect himself or Jason?
- In evaluating his deteriorating marriage, Eric decides that his wife “had fallen in love with a cardboard cutout of a man, a resume rather than a human being.” Do you understand what Eric means by this? Do you think this is a fair assessment of what happened in their marriage? Does this statement seem as if Eric is blaming his wife?
- Jason has some mental illness that is very manageable with the proper treatment, but much mental illness goes undiagnosed or untreated and can lead to serious problems. Why do you think this country is so lacking in the treatment of mental illnesses? Do you have anyone in your life with a mental illness, and if so, how are they being treated? What do you think we can do to better care for people, early screening? Funding research? Awareness campaigns?
- Paul is an aggressive but effective lawyer. What did you think about his style? Would you want Paul as your lawyer, why or why not?
- There was a lot of blame to go around in Every Fifteen Minutes. Other than Renée, who else did you think was a true victim? What responsibility did each main character have in what happened? In the end, do you think justice was done?