The Ninth Session, One of the Year’s Best Thrillers

The Bottom Line: A fast-paced, suffocating psychological thriller featuring a series-worthy heroine. One of the year’s best thrillers.

Dr. Alicia Reese’s first encounter with new patient Lucas Ferro begins as she finds him suffering from a crippling panic attack in her darkened office bathroom. Ferro has been in therapy before, and he’s worried that nobody can help him. By their third meeting, he discloses vague details of what may be a murder scene, and Dr. Reese’s post-session notes set the stage for what will be a deeply unsettling relationship: “Am I in danger knowing this?”

Author Dr. Deborah Serani, a widely published psychologist whose work can be found across mainstream media, has crafted a thriller that is as hair-raising as it is believable. Serani tells the story from Dr. Reese’s point of view, who feels duty-bound to balance her legal and ethical obligations with fears for her personal safety. Should she risk Googling the details of the alleged incident to try to learn more, knowing that her search could be compromised or tracked? Should she confide in her supervisor?

Serani employs a tightly wound plot, wasting little time on backstory or world-building. While a personal tragedy in Dr. Reese’s life becomes relevant to the narrative, Serani prefers to focus on the sense of foreboding that begins in the first chapter and how much Dr. Reese’s professional code weighs on her in real-time. It’s a magnificent setup, and the build-up pays off early and often throughout the book. Let’s hope Serani has a series planned for Dr. Reese.

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