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by Stephen White

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-83765-2
Publisher: Viking

 A psychologist suspects a patient of murder but can't speak out because of therapy's seal of silence...That's the nut that White, himself a psychologist, gnaws to a pulp in his slow and somber first novel. Boulder therapist Alan Gregory, who narrates with a maximum number of two-dollar words, is enduring a dark year: His wife has left him; and now one of his patients, Karen Hart, has killed herself, leading to an investigation of Alan for possible sexual misconduct and a likely lawsuit by Karen's parents. Then Alan's year turns really black: another patient dies in an auto accident; a third is murdered; his practice thins out; and, to cap it off, his dog is run down by a car. A new love affair with pretty Deputy D.A. Lauren Crowder sparks a little light, but soon Lauren confesses she has MS and in any case doesn't trust men; besides, she's angry that he won't divulge details of his sessions with Karen or the other victims. And Alan is chafing against that ethic as well, especially when a creepy new patient, Michael McClelland, begins to harass him (trailing Alan to Mexico, vandalizing his car) and to appear--mostly from evidence Alan gathers by some clumsy amateur sleuthing--the likely killer of Alan's murdered patient. Which indeed Michael is, with the novel's moderate suspense generated not by whodunit but by how to stop him from doing it again--specifically, to Lauren, whom crazy Michael--acting out a complex scenario of transference that's explained in talky if authoritative detail--has seduced away to an Aspen retreat, where a violent climax, centered around a surprising revelation, unfolds. White's professional expertise shows--but as a storyteller, he's done in by pompous narration, snail pacing, and much predictable plotting.