‘Saving Max’ is Antoinette van Heugten’s first book. It focuses on Danielle Parkman, a single mother and lawyer from New York and her son Max, a 16 year old with high functioning autism. As Max’s behaviours and moods get harder for Danielle and Max’s therapist to manage, it is recommended that he be admitted to Maitland Psychiatric Asylum in Iowa. One of the best inpatient facilities in the country. Once there, Danielle befriends another mother Marianne Morrison whose son Jonas has also just been admitted as he is profoundly autistic. Once admitted, Max’s behaviour gets increasingly violent and the staff diagnose him with schizoaffective disorder. A diagnosis that Danielle refuses to accept. She wants a second opinion. But before anything can be done, Max is accused of murdering Jonas. And given that Danielle and he are both found at the crime scene with the murder weapon by a nurse doesn’t help the cause.
Danielle is convinced that Max is not a murderer. But she has to convince Max’s lawyer Tony Sevillas and the private investigator Doaks of the same. And it’s hard to do it when she herself is released on bail and due to stand trial for her role.
Did Max murder Jonas in a fit of psychotic rage?
Why did his behaviours escalate at the facility?
Who is the shadow that Danielle thinks she saw leaving the crime scene?
Are any of the doctors responsible for Max’s behaviours?
How far would Danielle go to save her son?
To know all these answers, you have to of course read the book.
It’s a good suspense novel and has all the right ingredients to keep you interested. However, there are certain things that Danielle does to try and save her son which seem a bit too far-fetched in my opinion. A few things are also quite questionable including things like security at the inpatient facility and the way it all seems like a set up from the 70s. The court scene is quite interesting but then again, I’ve always found those interesting (thanks to John Grisham!) And while you find out whodunit about three-quarters into the book, there are other questions that remain unanswered. All in all, it’s a decent thriller if you are not looking for high quality literature. I give it a 3.
Until next time,