Katie: A Novel of Autism
By Ken Blaisdell
Genre: Murder Mystery
With the title character inspired by and modeled after his real-life niece, author Ken Blaisdell has woven an engaging and fast-paced whodunit that will not only satisfy the most particular readers of murder mysteries, but will at the same time educate them about many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that plague people with autism. And he manages to do it in such a subtle and entertaining way that the book never becomes sappy or “preachy.”
In the opening chapters of Katie: A Novel of Autism it is obvious that Katie has stabbed Sandy, her live-in au pair, to death. Unable to speak, Katie cannot explain why she is covered in blood and why she was standing next to the body, stomping and flapping, when her parents found her. Her “mental instability” is seen by the local police as the obvious explanation for her behavior.
But the small town’s deputy chief of police, a strong-willed, intelligent young woman named Marty, begins to detect flaws in the “obvious,” and goes from being Katie’s arresting officer to being her staunchest advocate, trying to keep her out of a state mental institution by figuring out who really killed Sandy, and why. But as the story unfolds, the reader is left to wonder if Marty’s allegiance is misplaced.
In the course of the investigation, Marty’s all too common misconception of severe autism being a form of mental retardation are corrected not only by Katie’s mother, but also through Marty’s personal and endearing interactions with Katie herself. An entirely different world opens up between the two when Marty discovers that Katie is able to converse by typing through a controversial process known as “facilitated communication,” and she comes to the humbling realization that not only is Katie not retarded, but that she is in fact an interesting, intelligent, and often clever young lady who just happens to be trapped in a cruelly malfunctioning body.
I will admit I was uncomfortable to start. I had my own assumptions regarding autism and anyone like Katie and I hadn’t fully read the synopsis so I didn’t know Ken’s experience or the inspiration for Katie. I’ve reviewed Ken before and based on this past relationship I’m an auto-yes to his review requests. It’s also, because of this, I trusted the story to be respectful and knowledgeable…which is it.
Katie is everything you want a main character to be. She’s far more than someone we should ever assume anything about. Far more than who her mother and father believe her to be. Very much a case of don’t judge by the outside.
Marty is our active main and the interaction between her and Charlie is fun and quirky, the type of flirtation I enjoy reading.
Ken, you also got me. I did not figure the killer out and for that I’m kicking myself. And, I’ve just deleted the sentence I was writing because I don’t want to give anything away, even with this I’m second-guessing myself. But, I should have been able to get it right, it’s not as if you didn’t set it up for us to figure it out. Good job.
There’s no disappointment here, just a little murder with a bit of kick-arse and touch of stand aside bad-arsing we can all love.
By-the-way, I wouldn’t mind more Marty and Charlie, please. Even a visit with/from Katie.