Roberta Writes – Book review: An end to Etcetera by B. Robert Conklin

What Amazon says

A boy. A shadow. A murder.

Or not?

Pathological liar? Sociopathic killer? Or just a troubled kid seeking attention? These are the questions that haunt therapist Selena Harris as she undertakes the most challenging case of her career.

Sitting on a couch two feet across from her is an ordinary-looking teenager who confessed in a text, inadvertently broadcast to his entire school, to murdering an autistic child left in his care. With no evidence to support Leal Porter’s testimony, authorities have referred him to Selena for counseling.

Challenging her professional distance is the emotional bond she develops with this lonely, isolated boy, whom classmates describe as “that scrawny kid who talks to himself at his locker.” Although Selena believes the alleged victim is the product of her client’s fevered imagination, she harbors one major doubt:

What if she’s wrong?

Selena can relate to Leal’s feeling of isolation, especially as she has returned to her small hometown on the heels of a divorce to take care of her father, who has suffered a debilitating stroke. In Leal’s case, however, he’s a school outcast due to his predisposition to tell tall tales to worm his way out of trouble.

Stepping outside the confines of her office in a quest for clues, Selena is determined to separate fact from fiction. But nothing in her experience prepares her for the harrowing revelation of the inner demon that lurks beneath the surface of Leal’s confession.

My review

I reviewed this book in my capacity as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you would like your book reviewed, you can contact Rosie Amber here:

This book is a well written and fascinating psychological thriller. Leal Porter, a teenager from a seemingly troubled background, is sent to psychologist, Selina Harris, for counselling sessions following his claim of drowning his younger autistic friend. His mother is not keen on his attendance at the counselling sessions, citing there cost and drain on her health insurance, but the school has made it a condition of his continued enrolment.

Selina has her own problems: she’s pregnant and isn’t sure whether the father is her soon to be ex-husband or an ex-lover with whom she had a one night stand, she’s in the process of getting a divorce from her husband, her ex-lover has announced his engagement to be married to another woman, and her elderly father has had a debilitating stroke. Despite, or perhaps because of, these personal issues, Selina becomes increasingly involved with Leal’s rather unbelievable account of the events leading up to the death of his young friend.

The story mainly constitutes Leal’s recounting his version of the events of his summer and involvement with a strange couple. He and his young autistic friend, Thuster, meet a beautiful young woman, Diana, who is married to a wealthy furrier. The two boys help her carry some groceries home and a friendship of sorts develops.

Leal is an unreliable narrator and neither Selena or the reader can tell what parts of his story are truth, if any, or if all of it is true. Is Thuster a real boy or is he a figment of Leal’s imagination? What has happened to Thuster’s caregiver, who also sometimes cares for Leal? Are the boys really friends with Diana and her husband, Saul, or it that all a lie? What happened to Leal’s father the night he died?

These are the questions around which the story line rotates. The book is beautifully written and it is impossible to know, as you read, what the answers to these questions are. Selina is also struggling and feels she is failing with this patient.

Selina is an interesting character with her poor self image and lack of confidence although she appears to be a competent psychologist. She is a bit confused about her relationships and does some strange things which are not unbelievable, just not well thought out. The more you learn about Selina, the easier it us to understand why her life is in such a muddle and why she is so perplexed by Leal. I thought Selina’s character was well drawn although I couldn’t understand her or relate to her reactions and actions. I ended up feeling sorry for her. Her short sightedness in all aspects of her life and projection of her internal conflicts and confusion onto her relationship with Leal contributed to the terrible situation she ended up in.

This book takes some very unexpected and interesting twists and turns, especially towards the end. A fascinating story with a great ending. 

Purchase An End to Etcetera

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29 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Book review: An end to Etcetera by B. Robert Conklin

  1. I love books with unreliable narrators, Robbie, so this one sounds good. And twists and turns are always fun. As a counselor in my work life, I tend to avoid books with counselors, since they often don’t seem realistic to me. Not that they don’t have problems, but usually there’s a fair amount of insight from the supervisory relationship. Anyway, enough about that. Great review and I’m glad the ending worked!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana, in this story, Selina was a psychologist to whom the school counsellor had referred the case. It was a fascinating story which I enjoyed. The ending was surprising and worked for a fictional book. Real life would never work that way.

      Liked by 1 person

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