Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Dr. Christopher Kellan is a psychologist with a troubled past. He works at the Loveland Psychiatric Hospital, mostly spending his days with a unit called Alpha Twelve, some of the most twisted, dangerous criminals who have been convicted. His newest addition is Donny Ray Smith, suspected of killing 10 girls and making their bodies disappear. But there's something else: Donny Ray looks familiar
Donny Ray knows things about Christopher that no patient should. And as Chris delves deeper into this patient's case, his own life begins unraveling. He's slowly losing grasp of his mind and reality is starting to lose shape. Is he going mad or is it all some kind of sick game?
I'll admit that the reason why I picked this up is because I saw it listed on the Goodreads Choice Awards page during the opening round. I recognized the cover and decided to read it since I got it from NetGalley and it was nominated in the horror category. It has to be pretty good if it's been nominated for an award, right?
After quickly reading the synopsis to remind myself what this is about, I jumped into the book. Originally, I hadn't thought about starting it because this was in the first week of November, which means it's the first week of NaNoWriMo. And as you can tell from what I posted last month, only 1 review went up because everything had been pre-planned and scheduled for the whole month. So I was pretty surprised when I started reading this and was flying through it. I didn't think I'd actually be reading anything in November.
The beginning of the book confused me a little because I somehow got it into my mind that this is from dual perspectives. It's not. I went back to the beginning to check after reading a few chapters. This is from a single perspective.
The case/patient that Dr. Christopher Kellan was working on, Donny Ray and his suspected murders, really had me intrigued. I love cases and mysteries surrounding people who might not be completely stable mentally. It adds a whole other level of excitement. It also allows me to understand more about the human mind as the case begins to unfold. This case was especially interesting because some signs pointed toward the killer devolving (getting sloppier and losing skill/capability) rather than evolving, which could be said is what led to his capture. Watching a killer devolve and understanding why is incredibly interesting to me, but sadly, I didn't really get to see much of that aspect explored.
The majority of the focus of this book is on Christopher and how he deals with Donny Ray's case. As he moves further along in his assessment, Christopher slowly begins to lose his grasp on reality. Somehow, this is all linked to Donny Ray's arrival. I don't want to say anything more than that because I might accidentally spoil you, but I kind of liked watching as Christopher struggled to figure out if he was losing his mind or not. Yes, I realize how twisted that sounds and how creepy I'm coming across as, but let's just all take a breath and accept that I can be a seriously twisted person. Don't worry, I'm in no way dangerous to society. Unless sarcasm counts, then I'm a danger to society.
While I was reading this, I had a thought of what the ending could be like. I wasn't sure that it would end up like that because few signs pointed in that direction, but it turns out that my theory was right. That was kind of disappointing. I had been hoping for a big reveal, which I guess it was supposed to be, but since I already had that theory, I essentially figured it all out before I even reached the quarter mark of the book. I'm kind of let down by that and I think that there could have been a different kind of reveal if the author chose to go in a different direction. And yes, since I figured it all out so early, it did affect my overall rating of the book and I was somewhat disappointed.
I did enjoy the psychological aspect of the book and the way it was told. There were some interesting elements and I can totally understand why this was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards. Though, what I don't understand is why this is classified as horror. The only time I was creeped out was when I first started reading it. Not being used to a character spending so much time in a psychiatric hospital, the environment did give me goosebumps. Other than that, nothing about this was scary to me. I consider it to be more of a psychological thriller than anything else. Maybe I'm too used to books like this and shows like Criminal Minds to consider this horrific.
I like how things played out in the end, even though I suspected everything and wasn't impressed by how everything was resolved. There was still a good conclusion and for the most part, questions were answered. I did have a couple of questions at the end, but nothing too big. It could have had a better conclusion, but on the other hand, it could also have had a worse conclusion. I'm not mad about it. Slightly let down, yes, but I'm satisfied enough.
There were moments when I was annoyed with Christopher because he would spend pages debating with himself about whether or not he was losing his mind. I understand that it's an actual part of what happens when someone slowly starts losing their mind or succumbing to a mental illness, but it did get a bit boring. However, I did think that Christopher was a good character and his backstory was interesting. I like him enough.
I'm actually more interested in Donny Ray Smith and I wish there was more to his story. I know he's not the main character, but there were so many fascinating things about him that I would have liked to have seen and explored. If there was a book entirely about him, I'd read it.
4.5 stars. I've always had pretty good luck with books published by Thomas and Mercer, and this is no exception. While I wish that some aspects of the books were slightly different, I'm happy with how it is. I'm also glad that I took the time to read this. If you're interested in the synopsis, I would recommend picking this up. It can be a little trippy if you're not used to psychological thrillers, but it's a good book.
Thank you to NetGalley for hosting this on your site. Thank you also to Thomas and Mercer for approving my request to read this in exchange for an honest review.