FROM THE PUBLISHER
Frank Clevenger is a forensic psychiatrist who hates authority, fears intimacy, uses sex as an anesthetic, is tortured by his professional mistakes, and can't free himself from the shadows of a brutal, alcoholic father and an absent, unfeeling mother. But it is precisely this injured psyche that allows him to understand the deranged behavior of the mental and emotional outcasts who cross his professional path. As Denial opens, all of Clevenger's understanding and expertise are put to the test: He has been asked to rubber-stamp the mental competence of a homeless schizophrenic who has confessed to a particularly grisly murder. But as evidence of a shocking series of murders begins to mount over the next seventy-two hours, Clevenger will be forced to confront his own most terrifying and powerful demons.
Frank Clevenger is a forensic psychiatrist with an injured psyche that enables him to understand the deranged behavior of the mental and emotional outcasts who cross his professional path. When a young woman is found murdered, and a schizophrenic homeless man is the prime suspect. Frank realizes he could not have committed the crime. As evidence of more shocking murders begins to mount, Frank is forced to confront his own demons in the race to stop the horrific crimes.
FROM THE CRITICS
[A] gripping debut novel...the forensic details are convincing, and the writing is sharp.
"We are, all of us, crippled and twisted," observes Frank Clevenger, the forensic psychologist who narrates Ablow's lurid debut thriller. Frank's own knowledge of cocaine, booze, gambling, strippers and sadistic sex (all intimately detailed by Ablow) has made him an invaluable consultant to the Lynn, Mass., cops, so he's the one police captain Emma Hancock turns to when the murdered and mutilated body of a young woman is discovered. Did the schizophrenic vagrant found at the scene of the crime do the deed, as the cops think? Frank thinks not and is compelled to search out the truththat a serial killer is on the loose. To do so, he must deal with difficult cops and physicians; with his lover, Kathy, an ob-gyn who is hounding him to give up his wicked ways; and, above all, with his inner demons. Too many charactersthe wisecracking pathologist, the whore with the golden heartsmack of clich, and the plot strains (but doesn't rupture) credibility as it reveals Frank to be much closer to the killer than he suspected. Even so, Ablow, himself a psychiatrist, delivers a convincing, seductively fascinating portrait of a man and a milieu obsessed with sensation and trapped in denial of that obsession. (July)
First-rate debut thriller involving forensic psychology by practicing psychiatrist Ablow (The Strange Case of Dr. Kappler: The Doctor Who Became a Killer, 1994).
Ablow's protagonist, forensic psychologist Frank Clevenger, makes for a distinctly unusual hero: He repeatedly falls off the wagon, goes from one billowing, self-defeating obsession to the next, buys coke on borrowed money, buys sex at nude dance bars, bottomlessly gulps scotch, gambles, drives drunk, digs S&M, can't pay his bills, solicits his mother for drug money, and more. The upside is that Clevenger's terrific insight into abnormal behavior may in fact be just because he's so twisted himself, a result, it's suggested, of his being the product of an alcoholic, suicidal, abusive father and a promiscuous mother. Now Frank is called in by Chief Emma Hancock to help send up the killer who murdered a young woman and cut her breasts off. A homeless nut wants to confess, but Frank, after interviewing him, says no. When her own niece becomes the madman's second victim, Emma gives Frank free rein to chase the perp and throws in three grams of coke to keep him stable. Meanwhile, Frank has huge fights with his live-in mate, Kathy, an ob-gyn who delivers babies all day and keeps leaving Frank because he won't quit the coke. Following leads to his favorite girlie bar, where he sits in "Perverts' Row" and feeds money to naked dancers, Frank finds himself attracted to Rachel, a star-crossed lady who analyzes him more keenly than he can himself. Ablow's main subject here is psychology, not melodrama, and, yes, he's written a cautionary tale. But, like The Lost Weekend, it ends with the hero still self-deluded and in denialwith Clevenger thinking, against the evidence, that he's on the road to recovery.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"Sex, murder, madness, and medicine. What more could any thriller reader want?" Michael Palmer
"A dark and compelling debut." Jonathan Hellerman
A deliciously creepy psychological thriller. Nelson De Mille