The Mask of SanityThe Mask of Sanity by Jacob M. Appel
My rating: 4/5 stars
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

i’ve read jacob appel’s short story collections before, but never one of his full-length novels. i wasn’t sure this book would deliver, since the plot sounded so much darker than his stories, and it’s not always a truism that people who are great at writing stories can also write novels, and vice versa. (also, i gotta cop to my own superficiality here: i do not like the cover. at all.)

but, man – i needn’t have worried; apparently he’s good at both long and short and dark and … well, not light, but playful? i’m not sure how to categorize his short stories. they’re just good is all you need to know.

this is a highly immersive psychological character study, even though it is written in third-person, which typically distances the reader from the text. but here, there’s no cushion between the reader and the innerworkings of the character’s mind, and we are privy to every calculation and decision he makes as he embarks on a killing spree designed to save his marriage.

jeremy balint is a young and successful cardiologist, married with two daughters, whose response to discovering his wife’s long-standing affair with a mutual friend is to kill that man. but balint’s no dummy who’s gonna fly off the handle and murder someone in a blind rage – he knows that revenge is not only best served cold, but that deferring his murderous act and masking his true target in a rash of other murders will direct the attention away from himself. to this end, he rationally approaches the situation and begins to research the do’s and don’ts of serial killing, constructing a persona and a methodology before cold-bloodedly murdering a bunch of folks, leaving a green ribbon at each scene as his calling card.

the obvious comparison title is American Psycho, which is one of the most divisive books ever, but this is a very different treatment of the theme. i am personally on the loving side of the American Psycho divide, but even without my extensive readers’ advisory training, it’s easy to see why people dislike it. not only is it super-graphic, but the mind of patrick bateman is a very claustrophobic and off-putting place. this book, while it certainly doesn’t shy away from killing innocents, is not as detailed or horrific in the details of the murders, so if that was your objection to American Psycho, you should be okay to read this one without squirming.

it’s fascinating, occasionally funny, and it’s a good example of a character-driven psychological suspense thriller that seems, chillingly, realistic.

the ending is a bit of an open-ended one, but in a good way. what could it meeeean for jeremy balint? will there be a follow-up? if so, i’d read it.

read my reviews on goodreads

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