The Bottom Line: The Talented Mr. Ripley meets 50 Shades of Grey. Recommended for fans of dark psychological thrillers.
Aaron Stein, MD, is a highly regarded fertility specialist at New York’s Harbor Hospital. He’s handsome, charming and financially secure. He’s also a deeply disturbed con man and misogynist who takes pleasure in the deceit and emotional destruction of his female victims.
His submissive wife, Ruth, is trained to wear a dog collar, go barefoot and keep her eyes downcast at home while serving his every need like a well-trained prostitute and maid service rolled into one. Then there’s Marcia, an aspiring entrepreneur who dreams of opening a cupcake store. Aaron’s seduction of Marcia hinges on a promise to be her business partner, hooking her with lines that imply that the relationship might lead to much more: “You have a doctor for a business partner. You don’t have to worry about getting sick ever again.”
The book is filled with similarly fragile victims of Aaron’s abuse. None are quite as formidable as Mirelle Blanchette, the hospital’s new attorney. Highly educated and sharp, she won’t be taken in so easily. The book’s intensity ratchets up nicely when she begins looking into Aaron’s past, and the payoff is explosive.
Told from the point of view of both Aaron and his numerous victims, He Counts Their Tears isn’t a subtle book. While not gratuitously bloody or pornographic, author Mary Ann D’Alto lays the whole of Aaron’s debauchery on the table from the get-go, leaving few skeletons in his closet to be unearthed along the way. Still, it’s a fascinating character study that evolves much like Patricia Highsmith’s iconic Ripley. While there’s little doubt as to Aaron’s intentions and motivations, the engrossing manner in which he approaches each conquest will be more than enough for most readers.