How to Spot a Psychopath

A suspenseful psychological thriller series (Dr. Oscar de la Nuit Book 1)

Fiction - Thriller - Psychological
344 Pages
Reviewed on 06/28/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

In How to Spot a Psychopath by M.Q. Webb, reporter Jessica Green is being held on suspicion of possibly having murdered a missing 4-year-old. When psychiatrist Dr. Oscar de la Nuit asks her why she has been researching psychopaths, she replies, “People are interested in abnormal behavior.” How right Jessica is! That’s the primary reason I decided to read this novel, and given the popularity of movies and books, both fiction and non-fiction, that focus on serial killers and psychopaths, author M.Q. Webb’s decision to embark on this new psychological thriller series is bound to find a wide readership.

Webb’s story strikes at the heart of parents’ greatest fears: how to keep their children safe. He sets the novel around the mothers of kindergarteners. These moms do the usual things, sharing child-raising issues over coffee after dropping off the children. Reporter Jessica starts sensing something “off” about Holly, Mia’s mom, but when Mia goes missing, suspicion falls on Jessica. Why would Jessica harm her own little girl’s best friend? No one knows where Mia is. Dr. Oscar is certain Jessica knows what happened but Jessica clams up. Given her interest in psychopaths, has Jessica been trying to determine if she is one? Or is she protecting someone?

M.Q. Webb keeps readers on tenterhooks as a chapter set in the present gradually reveals information about both Jessica and Dr. Oscar, before the following chapter set in the past yields insights into what happened. Through easy-flowing, natural dialogue, characters show readers their true selves. Readers feel emotionally connected to Jessica and Dr. Oscar, puzzled about Holly and Jessica’s sister, Niki, and increasingly curious as to just who is the psychopath in this story. If your idea of a good read is quick, challenges your sleuthing skills, and gives you chills thinking about the possible realities presented, you’ll enjoy How to Spot a Psychopath. Good work, M.Q. Webb.

Alma Boucher

Four-year-old Mia goes missing in How to Spot a Psychopath by M.Q. Webb. She was playing at Jessica’s house when she disappeared. The media painted Jessica as the perpetrator and everyone believe she was responsible for kidnapping or even killing Mia. She was arrested for assaulting her husband, but he withdrew the case and even the police decided she was guilty. They were not interested in what she had to say and did not follow up on any clues she gave. Doctor Oscar de la Nuit saw her on the news and, with his history, he decides he has to help her. He arranges her transfer to the Whitner Psychiatric Hospital where he would be her psychiatrist. He is the only one Jessica talks to, but she does not give any details about what happened on the day of Mia’s disappearance. Will he be able to persuade Jessica to tell the truth?

How To Spot a Psychopath by M.Q. Webb has an intriguing plot with interesting events. The pace was not too slow with enough twists to keep it interesting. The story did not have a lot of action but was still suspenseful. I enjoyed reading it and kept turning pages. It was well written and had a good flow; the chapters just flow into each other. I liked going back and forth between the two timelines that explained the events before Mia’s disappearance and what was happening now. The characters were brilliantly developed, and they had their own personalities. The mysterious Jessica was my favorite character, especially the way she now and then lets something slip of what had happened. The end was a total surprise, nothing at all that I expected.

Vincent Dublado

How to Spot a Psychopath is an intense crime mystery that will keep you guessing from start to finish as author M.Q. Webb effectively splits the narrative into two timelines. Jessica Green has a medical history of anxiety, and this is rubbed in her face when she becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of Mia Edwards, the four-year-old friend of her daughter, Zoe. Thanks to Mia's emotional mother, the press is amping up the story like buzzards feasting on fresh carrion. Forensic psychiatrist Oscar de la Nuit will not let this case go past him, as he finds Jessica an intriguing case. Whitney Psychiatric Hospital has its share of seeing people impacted by crime. But what makes Jessica's case intriguing for de la Nuit is her omerta, and he can only devise theories based on his personal observations and her remand center report.

You don't know who did it and you don't know if justice will be served, but when a young girl disappears, it can't help but trigger a sense of justice in you, especially when you're a parent. This is one of the strengths of the novel that make it highly engaging. M.Q. Webb sets the bar high when it comes to psychological crime novels. Rarely do crime writers dig deep into the anatomy of a character's psyche so that the tale also becomes a study in psychopathy. It similarly shows our propensity toward personal biases and moral error as a result of passing judgment in the absence of the big picture. Moreover, it is hard to single out one impressive character because all of them are remarkably three-dimensional. How to Spot a Psychopath is a surefire treat for anyone who loves a cerebral crime mystery.

Antoinette Wessels

How to Spot a Psychopath by M. Q. Webb is the first in a series and concerns the disappearance of a toddler. The story follows psychiatrist Oscar de la Nuit in his endeavor to uncover whether his patient, Jessica Green, had anything to do with the disappearance of Mia Edwards. Jessica refused to talk to anyone, not even those close to her, because she believed that everybody had already decided she was guilty. The public had indeed decided that Jessica was guilty of kidnapping and murder, but Oscar believed Jessica was innocent. During Oscar’s treatment of Jessica, he starts to heal old wounds from his past and also helps Jessica realize that she isn’t responsible for all the bad things that happen in the world. Will Oscar get Jessica to talk and will the truth finally be revealed before it’s too late for either Mia or Jessica?

How to Spot a Psychopath has you asking questions continuously, wondering who the real psychopath is, and trying to figure out what happened to Mia. The story plays out in the past and present, making sure you can see firsthand exactly what happened and not just from the point of view of a specific person. This made the book enjoyable for me as I wanted to know what happened from an overall perspective. Oscar evolves during the novel and one of the transformations was to forgive himself for past mistakes, and it's through this that he also helps Jessica. An underlying theme throughout the novel is one of friends and family and the impact they have on us and our mental health. It also looks at public opinion and how that influences us to react in certain ways. This is the first thriller I have read and I enjoyed it immensely. I am now reading another book by M. Q. Webb.