Happy 53rd birthday, Doctor. Welcome to the first day of your death. When a mysterious letter bearing these threatening words is delivered to Dr. Frederick Starks, his predictable life is thrown into chaos. Suddenly, the psychoanalyst is plunged into a horrific game designed by a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin. The rules: in two weeks Starks must guess Rumplestiltskin’s identity and the source of his fury. If he succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, one by one, Rumplestiltskin will destroy fifty-two of Dr. Starks’ loved ones–friends, relatives, children–unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself. You ruined my life. And now I fully intend to ruin yours. Ignoring the threat is not an option. When one of his patients dies under the wheels of a subway train and a detective investigating the case is struck by a hit-and-run driver, Starks knows his tormentor means business. And then there are the messengers sent to guide Starks on his descent, from the seductive woman in a trench coat who calls herself Virgil to a lawyer named Merlin weaving a spell of havoc and lies.
Katzenbach (Hart's War) never writes the same book twice, nor does he use the same plot devices or characters. His latest opens as New York City psychoanalyst Frederick (Ricky) Starks receives an anonymous missive saying that Starks has ruined the writer's life and that he has ten days in which to discover his or her identity. If he fails, he must commit suicide; if he does not comply with this order, someone in his family will suffer or die. At first Ricky is disoriented and unable to function effectively, but he soon begins to take action. Using his research skills, he finds that a former patient was so despondent that she killed herself, leaving three children as orphans. But this information is not enough to save Ricky's life. Thus, he goes on a journey of self-discovery, calling upon unknown depths of endurance and using his medical training in order to survive. This masterfully told thriller is impossible to put down and equally impossible to forget. For all fiction collections. Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 03, 2003
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Excerpt from The Analyst by John Katzenbach
I n the year he fully expected to die, he spent the majority of his fifty-third birthday as he did most other days, listening to people complain about their mothers. Thoughtless mothers, cruel mothers, sexually provocative mothers. Dead mothers who remained alive in their childrenýs minds. Living mothers, whom their children wanted to kill. Mr. Bishop, in particular, along with Miss Levy and the genuinely unlucky Roger Zimmerman, who shared his Upper West Side apartment and it seemed the entirety of both his waking life and his vivid dreams with a hypochondriac, manipulative, shrewish woman who seemed dedicated to nothing less than ruining her only childýs every meager effort at independenceýall of them used the entirety of their hours that day to effuse bitter vitriol about the women who had brought them into this world.
He listened quietly to great surges of murderous hatred, only occasionally interjecting the most modest of benign comments, never once interrupting the anger that spewed forth from the couch, all the time wishing that just one of his patients would take a deep breath and step back from their rage for an instant and see it for what it truly was: fury with themselves. He knew, through experience and training, that even- tually, after years of talking bitterly in the oddly detached world of the analystýs office, all of them, even poor, desperate, and crippled Roger Zimmerman, would reach that understanding themselves.
Still, the occasion of his birthday, which reminded him most directly of his own mortality, made him wonder whether he would have enough time remaining to see any of them through to that moment of acceptance which is the analystýs eureka. His own father had died shortly after he reached his fifty-third year, heart weakened through years of chain smoking and stress, a fact that he knew lurked subtly and malevolently beneath his consciousness. So, as the unpleasant Roger Zimmerman moaned and whined his way through the final few minutes of the last session of the day, he was slightly distracted, and not paying the complete attention he should have been when he heard the faint triple buzz of the bell heýd installed in his waiting room.
The bell was his standard signal that a patient had arrived. Every new client was told prior to their first session that upon entry, they were to produce two short rings, in quick succession, followed by a third, longer peal. This was to differentiate the ring from any tradesman, meter reader, neighbor, or delivery service that might have arrived at his door.