The Mask of Sanity by Jacob M. Appel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jeremy Balint:; hospital division chief, husband, father, would-be serial killer.
After one of those freakish sort of life coincidences that sends you tumbling down an alternate path, Jeremy sets his heart on the perfect murder. Only, to murder one person, he should really murder some others too so it looks random.
This is the kind of cold calculation you can expect from Jeremy's narrative, told from his POV. The story is solid, though (view spoiler)[perhaps lacks a bit of tension, as I rarely felt any doubt that Jeremy would complete his mission. (hide spoiler)] It was an entertaining read but felt restricted by (view spoiler)[it being from Jeremy's POV. While something like American Psycho goes the literary and raucously crazy route, if you took the gore and ambiguity out of that, you'd be left with a relatively straight tale of 80s excess, murder, and incompetent police work, which is kind of the feeling I was left with here, everything a little too tightly controlled. Except there was little chance for the police to be incompetent, because the murders were clean, albeit lucky sometimes (especially with respect to Jeremy's car not being registered at the various scenes). The murders were also matter-of-fact - anti-climactic almost. Again though, this is Jeremy's POV so the general tone is consistent with his character and can't be faulted. My one fault perhaps, and which could have been included with consistency, is Jeremy's insistence of the importance of his daughters, though there is relatively little interaction there. Maybe this too is a ploy, a case of himself pulling the wool over his own eyes. If not, a couple of fleshed out scenes with his daughters would have given him a little more warmth.
I did also think at the beginning that his sudden fall was 'too sudden' - that if he was capable of this he would have known earlier in his adult life, even his child life. We are glimpsed a moment in his childhood which goes some way to explain this, but even then Jeremy seems almost surprised by his own capabilities. (hide spoiler)] It's certainly fascinating to try and unravel the thought processes going on.
The cold moments in the narrative are lifted every now and then by Jeremy's wit - often in the form of mickey-taking, especially when he is in discussions with the rabbi who co-opts him into running some free clinics, which is a nice change of pace, while also revealing Jeremy's sociopathy. And as I said, the writing is solid and mostly unflourished, giving us an accurate insight into the working mind of a serial killer.
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