Sufficiently absorbing thriller based on Soviet psychiatry. Anatoly Sukhumi, general secretary of the Central Committee of...



Sufficiently absorbing thriller based on Soviet psychiatry. Anatoly Sukhumi, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and president of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, has been so ill that he is persuaded to wear two nitroglycerin injections strapped to his chest night and day. While at a party with his mistress, the superb actress Natalya Nikitchenko, he becomes so overenthusiastic on vodka and dancing that he punctures himself--or is punctured--with an overdose (one nitro shot was plenty, two fatal). However, before dying he tells Natalya to go to a Father Vakhtang in the village of Mtskheta to set in motion Sukhumi's vast master plan to overthrow and liberalize the Soviet government. Knowing she's a marked woman, magnificently beautiful Natalya goes into hiding, disguised as an old woman, but is eventually captured and hospitalized by the KGB as a ""nonpolitical"" schizophrenic in Moscow's Kashchenko Psychiatric Hospital. Her case is given to the brilliant young Pavlovian psychiatrist Aleksandr Barisov, who is not interested in Freud and all that Western subjective jazz: he's strictly a cause-and-effect materialist like his renowned boss, chief psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry Zoubok, the father of Pavlovian dialectical-materialist psychiatry. But when Borisov starts analyzing Natalya for ""sluggish schizophrenia,"" he finds that his boss's Marxist fundamentalism does not explain her case. In fact, she has a classic father complex!--crying that she is the mistress of a very powerful old government figure (Sukhumi, no less), a diagnosis exacerbated by her original father complex and Electra-rejection of her alcoholic mother, with KGB paranoid overtones. There's no KGB at Kashchenko, Zoubok firmly reassures Barisov. When Barisov finds that the KGB really is doing unauthorized spinal taps on his patient, and that Zoubok is not only covering up for the KGB but also is himself performing insulin shock and cold wet wraps and worse horrors on the naked and gorgeously green-eyed Natalya, he is goaded into action to save her. . . Endemic suspiciousness, by now genetic among Russians and as natural as breathing, is portrayed depressingly well, as is current Soviet psychiatry and its fumblings with schizophrenia, paranoia, alcoholism and other mental diseases. So, a well-researched suspenser, if a stock cast.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985