By Keith Ablow
Since we seem to be on a roll concerning psychopathic killers, or at least a roll of one, All Things Cease to Appear, reviewed here the other week, we thought we would introduce you to one of the best thrillers featuring a psychopath, who happens to also be a shrink,
Not to mislead you, however, Psychopath is anything but a slice and dice them novel populated by over-the-top characters. Ablow, a forensic psychiatrist himself, brings his first-hand knowledge and experience to bear in a story that is thoughtful, intelligent, and, above all, compassionate.
Briefly summarized, locum tenens (traveling, working temporary assignments) psychiatrist Jonah Wrens possesses the ability to immediately read patients, understand them, and heal them as he absorbs and bonds with them on a level as deep as the human soul. Usually, this satisfies his need for love and comforts sufficiently. In-between jobs, he aches for the bonding to the point where somatic symptoms manifest and nearly incapacitate him, until he gains relief through a victim.
As he travels around the country, he comes to the attention of the FBI and the press, earning the name “The Highway Killer.” The FBI, frustrated by its failure to crack the case, calls in forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger. He’s famous for solving a brutal family murder and assuming guardianship of the teen suspected as the murderer until he proved the boy’s innocence. Frank has a history, an ugly one of drugs and alcohol abuse. Further, he’s in the process of saving Billy, the boy, from himself, as well as working to adopt him.
When Frank enters the picture, Wrens reaches out to him through a letter in the New York Times. Thus ensues a patient-doctor relationship as Clevenger helps Wrens face and resolve the core issue that has propelled him on his path of destruction in an exchange of NYT letters.
What Ablow does so well here is take you into the mind of a serial killer, deep down into his darkest depths, to what unhinged him from sanity. It’s nothing short of a brilliant exploration of the cause and effect of the abnormal mind within a compelling story that has surprising heart. You’ll find it satisfying on many levels. w/c