For ten years, the charmingly disheveled veteran FBI Special Agent E.L. Pender has been investigating the apparently random disappearances of a dozen women across the country. The only detail the cases have in common is the strawberry blond color of the victims' hair, and the presence of a mystery man with whom they were last seen.
Then, in Monterey, California, a routine traffic stop erupts into a scene of horrific violence. The local police are stunned by a disemboweled strawberry blond victim and an ingenious killer with multiple alternating personalities. Pender is convinced he has found his man, but before he can prove it, the suspect stages a cunning jailbreak and abducts his court-appointed psychiatrist, Irene Cogan.
In a house on a secluded ridge in Oregon, Irene must navigate through the minefield of her captor's various egos -- male and female, brilliant and nave, murderous and passive -- all of whom are dominated by Max, a seductive killer who views her as both his prisoner and his salvation. Irene knows that to survive she must play along with Max's game of sexual perversion. Only then will she be able to strip back the layers to discover a chilling story of a shattered young boy -- and all the girls he adored.
A sexually charged thriller of extraordinary originality and page-turning suspense, The Girls He Adored moves furiously from the inner recesses of the psyche to its final, startling climax. Jonathan Nasaw brilliantly portrays two equally intense characters -- a deviant killer and the expert who can unlock his darkest secrets -- and introduces one of the most likable sleuths in recent fiction.
The homage to Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs is perhaps a bit too heavy-handed, but readers should get their bloodmoney's worth out of this twisted tale of a serial killer with a taste for strawberry blondes. "The system of identities known collectively as Ulysses Christopher Maxwell Jr." contains: a mnemonics expert, a petulant child, an extremely seductive young man, a demonic killer and a frighteningly smart front man named Max. It was Max who was finally arrested in California's Monterey County, sitting next to the recently disemboweled body of a young woman, during a routine traffic stop. Dr. Irene Cogan, an expert in what is now called DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) because "multiple personality disorder" got a bad name, finds Max a real challengeDand just a bit of a turn-on. For veteran FBI agent E.L. Pender, two years away from mandatory retirement and once voted the worst-dressed agent in the bureau, Max might mean the end of a one-man crusade to convince the world that all those strawberry blondes who mysteriously disappeared over the last 10 years were the victims of a serial killer Pender calls Casey, after the old song "And the Band Played On." When Max uses his Lecter-like skills to break out of jail and kidnap Dr. Cogan, Pender trails them to a horrific farm called Scorned Ridge in Oregon. Thanks largely to Nasaw's sharp writing, familiarity breeds not contempt but interest in how it all comes out. (Jan. 9) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 29, 2002
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Excerpt from The Girls He Adored by Jonathan Nasaw
"I'll save you some time," said the prisoner, shuffling into the interview room in his orange jumpsuit, fettered and manacled, wrists cuffed to a padlocked belt around his waist, and a scowling sheriff's deputy at his elbow. "I'm oriented times three, my thought processes are clear, and my mood and affect are appropriate to my circumstances."
"I see you're familiar with the drill." The psychiatrist, a slender blond woman in her early forties, looked up from behind a metal desk bare except for a Dictaphone, a notepad, and a manila folder. "Have a seat."
"Any chance of getting these things off?" The prisoner rattled his fetters dramatically. Slight, an inch or so below medium height, he appeared to be in his late twenties.
The psychiatrist glanced up at the deputy, who shook his head. "Not if you want me to leave you alone with him."
"I do, for now," said the psychiatrist. "He may need a hand free later for some of the standardized tests."
"I'll have to be here for that. Just pick up the phone when you're ready." A black telephone was mounted on the wall behind the psychiatrist. Beside it was an inconspicuous alarm button; an identical button was concealed on the psychiatrist's side of the desk. "And you, siddown."
The prisoner shrugged and lowered himself into the unpadded wooden chair, tugging with manacled hands at the crotch of his jumpsuit, as if it had ridden up on him. His heart-shaped face was just this side of pretty, with long-lashed eyes and lips like a Botticelli angel. He seemed to be bothered by a lock of nut brown hair that had fallen boyishly across his forehead and over one eye, so as the guard left the room, the psychiatrist reached across the desk and brushed it back for him with her fingers.
"Thank you," said the prisoner, looking up at her through lowered eyelids. The glitter of mischievous, self-satisfied amusement had faded from his gold-flecked brown eyes -- but only for a moment. "I appreciate the gesture. Are you a defense whore or a prosecution whore?"
"Neither." The psychiatrist ignored the insult. Testing behavior, she told herself. He was trying to control their interaction by provoking an aggressive response.
"Come on, which is it? Either my lawyer hired you to say I'm insane, or the DA hired you to say I'm not. Or were you appointed by the court to see if I'm fit to stand trial? If so, let me assure you that I am perfectly capable of understanding the charges against me and assisting in my own defense. Those are the criteria, are they not?"
"More or less."
"You still haven't answered my question. I'll rephrase it if you'd like. Have you been hired by the defense, the prosecution, or the court?"
"Would it make a difference in how you respond to my questions?"
The prisoner's demeanor changed dramatically. He lowered his shoulders, arched his neck, cocked his head to the side, and formed his next words carefully, almost primly, at the front of his mouth, speaking with just a trace of a lisp. "Would it make a dif-fer-ence in how you respond to my questy-ons?"
It was a remarkably effective imitation of her own bearing and manner of speaking, the psychiatrist realized. He had her nailed, right down to the hint of sibilence that was, after years of speech therapy, all that remained of a once ferocious, sputtering, Daffy Duck of a speech impediment. But the parody was more affectionate than cruel, as if he'd known and liked her for years.