HEAD CASE by Jay Bonansinga


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 Second swiftly paced suspense tale by Bonansinga (The Killer's Game, 1997), with thefts from several top-flight suspense films, but old-hat, jejune, stale, flat, dreadfully familiar--and unweeded, seedy. What can you say about a writer who blissfully downloads one hack phrase after another: ``This damn insomnia was making him crazy. . . . The sound of it was driving him nuts. He badly needed a change of scenery,'' etc., etc. That's writing? That's typing. So nameless one wakes up in a hospital, his memory wiped out by amnesia. (Now, which Graham Greene thriller was that? Ministry of Fear?) Those bits of memory that do return are really neither here nor there: his fondness for Tanqueray gin and Marlboros. Then the guy's picture is printed in a newspaper and his so-called brother shows up at the hospital to talk with him, but instead tries to shoot him. Anonymous escapes from the hospital, steals a van, and sells it, using the proceeds to hire Jessica, a private eye, to find out who he is. He holes up like Harrison Ford (The Fugitive) while Jessica uncovers scraps about his background. They go to a motel room where, as the one and only John McNally, he'd wrapped himself up in booze with a ghastly bunch of photos of bloodily violated bodies. He's Psycho- -a real Norman Bates head case? Or even a Hannibal Lecter? But further bits of memory trickle through eventually, revealing his interest in method acting and his rehearsing, once upon a time, for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Meanwhile, the killer, waving deadly weapons, is on their heels as, under hypnosis, McNally recalls that he's actually a clinical psychologist who digs into criminal behavior by drowning himself like Brando in a killer's character. Then don't the scalpels glitter and the blood drops fly. . . . We didn't much like The Killer's Game, either, and this one goes downhill from that.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-82514-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998