Cover image for Dangerous behavior
Dangerous behavior
Marks, Walter.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, [2002]

Physical Description:
275 ; 24 cm
General Note:
"An Otto Penzler book"--T.p.
Format :


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From an Emmy award-winning author comes a high-voltage psychological thriller, whose film rights have already been sold to Paramount/Scott Rudin. Charged with suspense and powered by canny intelligence, Walter Marks's taut debut crime novel pits the rigorously trained and disciplined mind of a promising young psychiatrist, David Rothberg, against the acute, if warped wits of a convicted murderer in a maximum security prison. As the unseasoned doctor strives to determine whether a prospective parolee-Victor Thomas Janko, once known as the Baby Carriage Killer, and now, after years in solitary confinement, a celebrated prison artist-"if released, would behave in a manner dangerous to others," he finds himself drawn unwillingly into the psychological quicksand of his enigmatic subject's phobias and fantasies. A guard at New York's Vanderkill Upstate Correctional Facility has no doubts about Janko's guilt or danger: he's often heard the prisoner boast about his crime. And the prison priest tells David that Janko is evil incarnate. Janko himself claims to have no memory of committing the gruesome murder that captured headlines nationwide, while his girlfriend Daisy maintains that Victor, a loving man, could never kill anyone-and that she can prove it. Each of them, however, has a hidden agenda, and all of them complicate the issue that confronts David, on whose increasingly clouded judgment rests the parole of a possibly seriously disturbed man. What complicates matters even more for David as he tries to penetrate the mysterious case of Victor Thomas Janko in this riveting crime thriller are the demons he confronts within himself-demons that may prove to be the agents of his own destruction.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Fighting his own personal demons, psychiatrist David Rothberg takes a job in New York's maximum security Vanderkill Upstate Correctional Facility. His first assignment is to determine if Victor Janko, the notorious Baby Carriage Killer and now a celebrated prison artist, is mentally competent to be paroled after 15 years in solitary confinement. Dr. Rothberg is soon entangled in a web of conflicting interests and devious intentions as he comes to believe that Janko might be innocent of the horrific murder for which he was convicted. Quirky characters, such as a beautiful, but conniving, librarian and a pistol-packing, senior-citizen lady lawyer, add originality to the hackneyed plot. This first novel by Emmy Award^-winning composer Marks lacks fully fleshed-out characters and originality (sadistic prison guards and sleazy strip bar assignations are de rigueur in recent novels of this ilk), but it hums along to a "keep you guessing ending" and should be popular with crime novel buffs. --Michael Gannon

Publisher's Weekly Review

Broadway composer and lyricist Marks strikes a dull note in this debut psychological thriller set in the environs of a New York State prison. Psychiatrist David Rothberg is trying to determine whether Victor Janko, the notorious baby carriage killer, should be paroled after 15 years behind bars. In his initial consultations, Rothberg detects little threat from Janko, a model prisoner who spends most of his time painting beach landscapes. Janko insists he has no memory of the crime for which he was sentenced the stabbing death of a young mother while her baby watched from a nearby carriage and, indeed, some evidence points to his innocence and toward another suspect. Yet Rothberg finds himself pulled in another direction by prison officials who claim they have heard Janko brag about the crime. Right on cue, a key fact emerges that turns Rothberg from prison shrink to dogged investigator, hunting for the real killer in New York City. Just when it seems that Marks is about to build to a heady finale, the plot peters out disappointingly. Some readers, however, will have grown bored earlier on. In spite of Rothberg's unusual profession and some quirky traits he suffers from migraines, drives a converted Checker cab and cares for a pet turtle he has a remarkably spiritless interior life. "If only I could get a resolution to the mystery of Victor Janko," he thinks at one point. "But how?" Readers may well have stopped wondering. Agent, Henry Morrison. $100,000 advertising. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved