Psychopathic, a Highly Recommended Psychological Thriller

The Bottom Line: Melby reinvigorates the psychological thriller with a peerless heroine, masterclass pacing and a judicious sense of foreboding throughout. 

Psychiatrist Faith Galloway is the epitome of resilience. The blind physician, accompanied by a German Shepherd named Zeus, seems to have a heightened sense of awareness, moving easily through city streets and train stations. She enjoys a strong professional reputation for treating especially troubled patients, some of whom remark that she understands them differently and better than other shrinks. 

Faith has survived brushes with death in the past, including a skydiving accident that killed her instructor and put her sister in a coma. But as Psychopathic begins, we find her attempting to buy a gun with a long-expired Driver’s License. When the gun store manager refuses, she demands that he make an exception. “He’s stalking me again…If I don’t buy a gun today, I’m as good as dead.”

The person she fears is former patient and convicted stalker Ronald Neyman, a schizophrenic who has begun a skilling spree. Two people are already dead, and Faith is quite sure Neyman will be coming for her. Neyman thrives on instilling fear, and his obsession with Faith and Mira Galloway runs deep. 

Enter Agent Brannigan from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis UnitAuthor Jason Melby does wonders with the interplay between Brannigan and Faith, which is both fraught with tension and compassion. As the narrative progresses and Neyman strikes in increasingly unpredictable ways, the pair form a tenuous bond that is strategically important to the killers’ apprehension. Whether Brannigan will be able to protect Faith is always in doubt, but one thing is for sure – Brannigan may never catch Neyman without Faith’s insights.

Melby’s style – stripped down, straightforward prose that crackles with emotional heft – is highly effective throughout. That’s especially true when it comes to some of Faith’s patient sessions. Experiences told by and with a patient named Carmen are so terrifying that they border on horror (“He wanted me to fear him. But I loathed him a hundred times more than I already had“). Also, the subplot involving Dr. Steven Jenkins, who may or may not be involved in experimental treatments and unauthorized trials, is another animal entirely, and one that launches the book to new heights and new places. 

Let’s hope Melby brings some of these characters back for a sequel. Highly recommended. 

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