The hero hears voices, but it’s what he sees that makes him special in this serial-killer version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Francis Petrel has heard voices his entire life. They usually offer him sensible advice, but they couldn’t stop his family from committing him at 21 to Western State Hospital. Under Dr. “Gulp-a-pill” and Mr. “Evil,” Francis faced a long stay and gallons of medication until a series of murders shook things up. Now middle-aged, inoffensive, solitary, and medicated, Francis begins the traumatic process of recalling what he saw at the hospital years ago when a young nurse-in-training was brutally killed. The murder brought Lucy Jones—a spectacularly scarred but of course still beautiful prosecutor with a personal vendetta against rapists and killers of women—to the hospital grounds to investigate. She called upon unobtrusive Francis and another patient, the enigmatic “Peter the Fireman,” to help her investigations. A mysterious and sinister “Angel” haunted the grounds, taunting Lucy and killing people as he pleased. Francis explained to Peter and Lucy, the only friends he’d ever had, the inverted rationale of an insane asylum, but they preferred to listen to their own more conventional obsessions—and ended up putting themselves in deadly peril.
Katzenbach (The Analyst, 2002, etc.) creates a wonderfully appealing narrator in Francis, more interesting than the conventional damsel, knight, and dragon battle at the heart of his monster flashback.