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review 2016-11-11 22:53
The Lost - Jack Ketchum
The Lost - Jack Ketchum

Right off the bat, The Lost starts with a bang (pardon the pun). Ray was a nutcase when he was a teenager and blew two girls away that were camping. His two friends, Tim and Jennifer, were sheep when they watched him do it and just stood there with their mouths open. They didn't turn him in. They didn't try to stop him. Nothing. Why did he do it? Just to see how it felt. Four years later, Ray is still just as big of a nutcase. The only difference is that he hasn't killed anyone in those four years since. Tim and Jennifer are still the loyal sheep that follow Ray's every move without question. The police were unable to pin the murders on Ray, but the officers on duty, Charlie and Ed, knew damn well that Ray did it. However, they didn't have the proof the bust him. So, for 4 years, he walked a free man. But four years is a long time and Ray has never had anyone push his buttons to see what he would really do if his temper reached critical mass...until now.

 

 

The Lost is a fantastic tale told in Ketchum's patented straight-forward way. He captures small town America. The characters are amazingly realistic and feel like you know someone exactly like them. When I say Ray is a nutcase, I mean it. On the surface, to the people that don't really know him, he only seems like a harmless hood. But his evil is constantly simmering under a lid that is barely on and just waiting to go flying off. Those are the scariest kind of monsters. Realistic and unassuming until one day...BLAM! Ketchum does an amazing job ratcheting up the dread until the final act. If you haven't read Ketchum yet, this one isn't a bad one to start off with. Pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

 

 

 

4 1/2 Bullets through the Eye out of 5

 


You can also follow my reviews at the following links:

 

https://kenmckinley.wordpress.com

 

http://intothemacabre.booklikes.com

 

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5919799-ken-mckinley

 

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url 2016-02-21 20:32
Stop Calling Sherlock a Sociopath! Thanks, a Psychologist.

SherlockSherlock Holmes is not a sociopath. He is not even a "high-functioning sociopath," as the otherwise truly excellent BBC Sherlock has styled him. First of all, psychopaths and sociopaths are the exact same thing. There is no difference. And second of all, no actual psychopath-or sociopath, if you (or Holmes) will-would ever admit to his psychopathy.

 

Read more here.

Source: io9.gizmodo.com/5933869/stop-calling-sherlock-a-sociopath-thanks-a-psychologist
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review 2015-08-08 16:21
Very suspenseful but gory
Swerve - Vicki Pettersson

This book started out so good I was sure I’d be giving it at least 4 stars. The first half of the book is a very suspenseful cat and mouse game between a damaged woman and a deranged psychopath. I was on the edge of my seat reading. And I never saw the twist coming.

 

But once that twist comes, the book turns into a gore fest. At that point, it just became another horror book with over the top violence. It was still suspenseful but the acts of torture were truly hard to read and I felt it became predictable.

 

One element of the book that I felt the author handled very well was the flash backs to show why the main female character Kristine was so damaged. She did a good job in fleshing out this woman and the strength she had drawn from the horrendous events in her life. But I don’t think she handled the flash backs to show the development of a psychopath as well.

 

All in all, due to the edge-of-your-seat beginning and the development of Kristine, I’ll give the book 3 stars.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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review 2015-07-25 17:01
The Undertaker’s Son by B A Spicer. Psychopaths, crooks and small-town France
The Undertaker's Son - Bev Spicer

I am reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie and to the author for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The book intrigued me because of the description and the setting. We all seem to expect crime, and crime novels, to be set in big cities, but when evil hides in a small, picturesque and peaceful town, it seems worse. As if evil had no place in such environment. It’s true that it’s perhaps more difficult to hide in a small and idyllic French town, but some manage to hide in plain sight.

The novel, written in the third person, is told from the point of view of a large number of characters, from the “evil” character hinted at in the description, the undertaker’s son of the title, Claude, to Patrice, a young student who ends up being more central to the plot than it seems at first. The author allows us to peer into the heads of her characters, and this is sometimes a very agreeable experience (like in the case of Martha Burton, the British divorcee out to create a new life for herself in France, who despite disappointments in love, is fairly happy), and at others, an utterly terrifying one. Apart from Claude, who has no redeeming qualities, and Patrice, who is a nice young man without any shades, all the rest of the characters are all too human, they hesitate, they are morally ambiguous at times, and even downright immoral. Felix Dumas, the crook, is utterly dislikeable, but even he has some redeeming qualities (he does not understand his son, but seems to love him, and he tells Claude not to take drastic measures. He does not want anyone killed.) And Angeline… It’s a credit to the author that by allowing us into the minds of her characters, we might not agree with what they do, the secrets they keep, or their reasons and justifications, but we understand them. Well, that is, except for Claude.

Claude reminded me of the main character in Peeping Tom due to his fascination with death. But, in contrast with Mark Lewis, the protagonist of Peeping Tom, who is a victim of his father’s psychological experiments, Claude is unknowable. We share his memories and see his attachment to Felix, but he operates outside of our conceptions of right and wrong. He’s a psychopath, but from what we get to see of him, he uses his interest and fascination with death in a utilitarian way, and turns it into a business, rather than being compelled to kill. He plans his jobs with military precision, and seems alien to humankind, functioning at a different level. This is not the typical serial killer whose neighbours would say he seemed so “normal”. He is nothing if not extraordinary. A character very difficult to forget that makes us question the limits of humanity and conscience.

The plot is intriguing but the writing ebbs and flows through certain moments, like parties, planting a tree, and the fleeting memories of a dementing old-man, that help us get a vivid sense of the town and its people, and make us care for the fate of its inhabitants. For the duration of the book we become privileged town dwellers and get to know everybody. This is not a frantically paced thriller, but a novel that shares in the more relaxed pace of its setting, and that’s perhaps what makes it more chilling.

The ending is satisfying (perhaps everything works out too well and that’s the least realistic aspect of the novel) and reassuring. I look forward to reading more novels by B A Spicer.

Four and a half stars.

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review 2015-06-28 13:21
A dark tale of a singular time and an empowering friendship
THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER - Vanessa Matthews

I am a psychiatrist, and when I read the plot of this book I could not resist. A book set in Vienna about the early times of psychiatry, and a woman, the daughter of a psychiatrist, trying to develop her own ideas and become independent from her father’s overbearing influence. I had to read it.

The book is fascinating and very well-written. I suspect that somebody without my background might enjoy the story more for what it is, and not try and overanalyse it or overdiagnose it. Arnold Rosenblit’s theories are suspiciously reminiscent of Sigmund Freud’s. And of course, he also had a daughter, Anna, who dedicated her life to study and develop child-psychology. I’ve read some of Freud’s works, but I haven’t read that much about his life, although from what I’ve seen, his relationship with his daughter was much more congenial than the one Arnold (a man difficult to like, although the description of his relationship with his wife is quite touching) had with Marta, the daughter of the title.

The book is written in the third person and mostly narrated through Marta’s point of view, although there are chapters from her friend Elise’s perspective, her father, and Leopold, a physician and long-time friend of the family.

Marta is a very complex character, and one I found difficult to simply empathise with and not to try and diagnose. Her mother was locked up in a psychiatric asylum when she was very young and she became the subject of her father’s observation. The father tried to keep her as isolated as possible from his other daughters, but the oldest daughter looked after her, even if minimally, and they were all in the same house. (It made me think of the scenario of the film Peeping Tom, although Arnold does not seem to have been openly and intentionally cruel.) She appears naïve and inexperienced, at least in how to behave socially and in her role and feelings as a woman, but she is a doctor, a psychiatrist, attends and organises her father’s talks and lectures, and teaches outside, therefore she’s exposed to society and has always been. This is not somebody who has truly grown up in isolation, although she has missed a guiding female figure in her life and the close emotional attachment.

She has her own psychological theories and ideas, but finds it difficult to make her father listen to her. She has very low self-esteem, self-harms and has been doing so for a long time, and when she enters a relationship with a man, she’s completely clueless as to standards of behaviour or how to interpret this man’s attentions (a much older man than her, but somebody with influence and who promises to help her). Although she was not brought up by her mother, I wondered how realistic some of her behaviours would be for a woman of her social class at that period. However, the novel does paint the fine society of the time as a close set-up with a very dark undercurrent, with drugs and alcohol being consumed abundantly, and adventurous sexual behaviours being fairly common, and perhaps Marta is reflexion of such contradictions. On the surface, very controlled (the ego), but with strong and dark passions underneath (the unconscious).

Eloise, the friend she casually meets (or so it seems at the time), is a formidable character, determined, strong-willed, and resourceful, prepared to fight the good fight for women in a society of men. It’s very easy to root for her.

There is a classical villain, that you might suspect or not from early on, but who eventually is exposed as being a psychopathic criminal. The difficulty I had with this character was that I never found him attractive enough or clever enough to justify the amount of power he had over everybody. He is narcissistic and manipulative but even he at some point acknowledges that he uses people but has no great contributions or ideas of his own. It is perhaps because we’re privy to Marta’s thoughts and we see behaviours most people wouldn’t see that we don’t fall for him, but later on he’s revealed to have behaved similarly with quite a few people, especially women, and for me, it was difficult to understand why they would all fall for him. Marta is a damaged individual and he takes advantage of it, but what about the other women? And the rest of society? Leaving that aside (it might be a personal thing with me), he’s definitely somebody you’ll love to hate. (I’m trying not to spoil the plot for readers, although the description of the books gives quite a few clues).

The ending, despite terrible things happening and much heartache, is a joy. Considering what has gone on before, everything turns very quickly, and it’s difficult to imagine that in real life psychological healing would be quite so complete and perhaps so smooth. But it is a fairy tale ending, and although a dark tale, one of sisterhood triumphant.

A word of warning, the book can prove a tough read, as some pretty dark things take place, and there are some cringe-inducing moments. It is not an easy read, but it will challenge you and make you think. And that’s not a bad thing.

I was offered a copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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