In The Session by Judith Kelman, Julia “P.J.” Lafferty is happy working as a therapist in the women’s psych ward at Riker’s Island prison when the unthinkable happens—one of the inmates under her care, Jeannie Bagshaw, is stabbed to death.
Blamed in part for Jeannie’s death, P.J. is let go from her beloved job and finds herself unemployed. She soon has something else to occupy her time, though, when Big Millie, another inmate, calls her at home to tell her she knows who killed Jeannie. P.J. decides it is her personal mission to prove Big Millie’s suspicions that Charlie Booth, Jeannie’s ex husband, is behind the death. Her mission becomes even more critical when she meets Dennis John, Jeannie and Charlie’s son who is living with his elderly aunt. Though Charlie has a long history of criminal offenses and abuse of both Jeannie and Dennis John, he somehow keeps getting away with his crimes. P.J. knows that Dennis John’s life is in danger from his evil father, and she is the only one who can save him.
With the help of her deaf sister and acclaimed children’s book author Caity, her ex-husband Rafe, and an expert in the field of sadistic psychopaths, P.J. goes to the extremes to prove that Charlie Booth killed Jeannie and to keep him from Dennis John. But can she do so before Charlie sets his murderous sights on her?
Kelman does a decent job of setting up the plot and introducing us to characters, but The Session never really gets going and suffers from a number of problems that keep it from being the entertaining and thrilling read it could have been. The characters are relatively one-dimensional, and their dialogue veers from stilted to just plain bad. In addition, the plot never really gets that entertaining, Charlie Booth isn’t an overly scary bad guy, and P.J. does things so dumb that you often want her to get hurt just to teach her a lesson. The end doesn’t fare much better as several threads fail to come together, and the explanation for Charlie’s avoidance of criminal prosecution is laughable at best.
Though The Session starts out interesting, it quickly loses steam and the interest of the reader. If you’re looking for a thrilling psychological read, you can do much better than Kelman’s latest.