M. J. Rose

"The Halo Effect"

(reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez JUL 24, 2004)

"Why was my panic always so close to the surface? It was as if I was always waiting for the phone call, the knock on the door, the explosion. Expecting it."

It was completely delightful to find a novel that has an interesting plot, a thrilling pace and characters with depth, including a heroine that captivates. Dr. Morgan Snow has been working as a psychiatrist for The Butterfield Institute for the last five years. The clinic specializes in helping people with sexual problems, and Morgan's clientele is varied, including all kinds of characters. One of her patients is a call girl named Cleo, who has succeeded in developing a business by herself and leads a comfortable life.

But Cleo Thane has other interests too. She enjoys writing and has authored a book that contain her memoirs of her life in the trade. This book reveals secrets of very influential people relating to their fantasies and fetishes, and Cleo has been able to secure a six-figure contract from a publisher. Even though she disguised the male characters with which she has had sexual encounters, the descriptions may be enough to identify them, so Cleo asks Dr. Snow to read the manuscript and give her an opinion as to whether publishing the book is a good idea or not.

M. J. Rose succeeds in her presentation of the main characters Morgan and Cleo, by giving them substance and a rich personal history. In the case of Cleo, there are other layers, besides those already described, which make matters even a bit more complicated. She has a boyfriend, who is a lawyer, and their relationship is in trouble since she cannot bring herself to have sexual relationships with him because when she tries this she gets physically ill. Morgan has recently finalized her divorce, which was necessary due to the lack of lust in her marriage. She has a twelve-year-old daughter who wants to be an actress and takes this very seriously. Morgan has trouble dealing with her recollections of her mother who was also a child actress, and how this affected the way in which Morgan's childhood developed and her mother lived her life. The fact that the author switches back and forth between her narrative and the one done by Morgan makes the novel more interesting and also easier to understand the motivations and logic behind the actions of the heroine.

In several aspects Dr. Morgan Snow seems to be similar to Dr. Alex Delaware, the main character used by Jonathan Kellerman in his famous series. Both characters are complex and try to deal with their personal issues while at the same time being involved in solving the problems of others. The other similarity I find is that both care immensely about their patients and the people that ask for their help. In The Halo Effect, when a killer starts murdering prostitutes, the first one being a patient of Morgan, and then Cleo disappears, Morgan feels compelled to take action.

The bodies have been left dressed as nuns, with their pubic hair shaved in the shape of a cross and the women have been given the sacraments before their death. Special Victims Unit detective Noah Jordain contacts Morgan seeking her help in profiling the killer. She is also contacted by Cleo's business partner and by Cleo's boyfriend, both of which want to look at the manuscript and wish to know about what was said in the psychiatric sessions. Morgan is thus placed between a rock and a hard place, if she talks, she breaches the confidence Cleo placed in her, but if she does not and Cleo is really in trouble, she is preventing her from getting help.

The only "reasonable" option is from Morgan to get involved in the investigation, even when she need to go against the advice of her godmother, protector and owner of The Butterfield Institute, Dr. Nina Butterfield. From this point forward, we are swept away into a fast paced thriller that has all the necessary elements to be a bestseller. I guarantee you will not regret picking this one up.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 88 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Halo Effect at the author's website

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

The Reincarnationist Series

Butterfield Institute Series

Co-authored Nonfiction:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

M. J. RoseM. J. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, was a creative director at a New York City advertising agency and has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She also wrote a weekly column for Wired.com called "E-Publishing Ink" and has contributed to O: The Oprah Magazine, Writer's Digest, Poets and Writers, Book Magazine and Salon.com.

Rose has been called the "poster girl" of e-publishing by Time magazine and has been profiled in Forbes, the New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek and New York Magazine. She has also made national appearances on the Today Show, Fox News and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Rose self-published Lip Service in 1998 after several traditional publishers rejected it. Editors loved it, but didn't know how to position it because it didn't fit into any one genre. Frustrated, but curious and convinced there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet. After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format), Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club, as well as being the first e-book to then be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.

M. J. Rose lives in Connecticut.

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