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Over the Line

Fay Sultan and Teresa Kennedy
Doubleday, 1998. 286pp
ISBN: 0-385-485-25-5

review by Harriet Klausner

Jimmy Weir is a transient who drifted into the small town of Dixon, South Carolina. He currently lives in the loft of an old tobacco barn in exchange for keeping the property in reasonably decent shape. He works as a delivery boy for the local grocer, an easy job for a simple person. The townsfolk do not care that Jimmy seems a bit touched in the head as long as he correctly does his job and remains out of trouble. After three years elapse, Jimmy is taken for granted, though not quite accepted by the locals. None of Dixon’s citizens realize how much rage resides inside his soul or that without provocation his anger will be unleashed, resuling in the rape and mutilation and death of two elderly women.

The crime drew national media attention, making it the domain of the state’s attorney general, who plans to use it as a springboard for a senate candidacy run. The attorney general plans to call for the death penalty when the perpetrator is found guilty. This decision forces forensic psychologist Portia McTeague to join the defense team. After evaluating Jimmy, she concludes that he is not guilty by reason of insanity. Now she must prove the obvious to those who refuse to hear the truth, even as she must battle her own traumas that rival the horror that Jimmy has endured.

Fay Sultan and Teresa Kennedy have created a very dynamic, complex, and memorable work that examines the flaws in the judicial system when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. Unlike similar story lines, Over the Line, goes one step further by analyzing the close relationship between an impassioned psychiatrist and her mentally disturbed client. The story line deals less with right or wrong, but more with society’s responsibility to deal with those incapable of taking care of themselves.Somehow this work touches the souls of its readers, making them feel emotions they never previously considered when it pertains to unsettling social issues. This literary work of crime fiction brings the New Year off to a great start.

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