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#TuesdayBookBlog THE SHADOW OF THE MOLE by Bob Van Laerhoven (@bobvanlaerhoven) A dark and beautiful novel set during WWI that explores the depths of people’s minds and souls #literaryfiction #WWI

Hi all:

I want to share the review of a novel by an author those of you who read my blog regularly will already be familiar with. He never disappoints and his books are always pretty special.

The Shadow of the Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven

The Shadow of the Mole by Bob Van Laerhoven

1916, Bois de Bolante, France. The battles in the trenches are raging fiercer than ever. In a deserted mineshaft, French sappeurs discover an unconscious man, and nickname him The Mole.

Claiming he has lost his memory, The Mole is convinced that he’s dead, and that an Other has taken his place. The military brass considers him a deserter, but front physician and psychiatrist-in-training Michel Denis suspects that his patient’s odd behavior is stemming from shellshock, and tries to save him from the firing squad.

The mystery deepens when The Mole begins to write a story in écriture automatique that takes place in Vienna, with Dr. Josef Breuer, Freud’s teacher, in the leading role. Traumatized by the recent loss of an arm, Denis becomes obsessed with him, and is prepared to do everything he can to unravel the patient’s secret.

Set against the staggering backdrop of the First World War, The Shadow Of The Mole is a thrilling tableau of loss, frustration, anger, madness, secrets and budding love. The most urgent question in this extraordinary story is: when, how, and why reality shifts into delusion?

“The Flemish writer Bob Van Laerhoven writes in a fascinating and compelling way about a psychiatric investigation during WW1. The book offers superb insight into the horrors of war and the trail of human suffering that results from it” – NBD Biblion

https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Mole-Bob-Van-Laerhoven-ebook/dp/B09RTTK28K/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Mole-Bob-Van-Laerhoven-ebook/dp/B09RTTK28K/

https://www.amazon.es/Shadow-Mole-English-Bob-Laerhoven-ebook/dp/B09RTTK28K/

Author Bob Van Laerhoven
Author Bob Van Laerhoven

About the author:

Bob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th, 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, a region in Flanders (Belgium), bordering to The Netherlands, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. A number of his stories were published in English, French, German, Polish, Spanish, and Slovenian.

DEBUT

Van Laerhoven made his debut as a novelist in 1985 with “Nachtspel – Night Game.” He quickly became known for his ‘un-Flemish’ style: he writes colorful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. His style slowly evolved in his later novels to embrace more personal themes while continuing to branch out into the world at large. International flair has become his trademark.

AVID TRAVELLER

Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2004. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Mozambique, Burundi, Lebanon, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.

MASS MURDERS

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: “Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder.” The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

MULTIFACETED OEUVRE

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, theatre pieces, biographies, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author: in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best crime-novel of the year with “De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.” “Baudelaire’s Revenge” has been published in the USA, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Russia. In 2014, a second French translation of one of his titles has been published in France and Canada. “Le Mensonge d’Alejandro” is set in a fictitious South-American dictatorship in the eighties. The “junta” in this novel is a symbol for the murderous dictatorships in South-America (Chile and Argentine, to mention two) during the seventies and beginning of the eighties. In The Netherlands and Belgium, his novel “De schaduw van de Mol” (The Shadow Of The Mole) was published in November 2015. The novel is set in the Argonne-region of France in 1916. In 2017 followed “Dossier Feuerhand (The Firehand Files), set in Berlin in 1921.

“Baudelaire’s Revenge” is the winner of the USA BEST BOOK AWARDS 2014 in the category Fiction: mystery/suspense.

In April 2015 The Anaphora Literary Press published the collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions” in the US, Australia, UK, and Canada, in paperback, e-book, and hardcover. “Dangerous Obsessions” was voted “best short story collection of 2015 in The San Diego Book Review. In May 2017, Месть Бодлерa, the Russian edition of “Baudelaire’s Revenge” was published. “Dangerous Obsessions” has been published in Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, and Spanish editions. In January 2018 followed “Heart Fever”, a second collection of short stories, published by The Anaphora Literary Press. The collection came out in German, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. “Heart Fever” was one of the five finalists – and the only non-American author – of the Silver Falchion Award 2018 in the category “short stories collections.” In April 2018, Crime Wave Press (Hong Kong) brought forth the English language publication of “Return to Hiroshima”, Brian Doyle’s translation of the novel “Terug naar Hiroshima”. The British quality review blog “MurderMayhem&More” listed “Return to Hiroshima” in the top ten of international crime novels in 2018. Readers’ Favorite gave Five Stars. In August 2021, Next Chapter published “Alejandro’s Lie,” the English translation of “Alejandro’s leugen.”

https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Van-Laerhoven/e/B00JP4KO76/

My review:

I thank the publisher and the author for the ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. Having read three of Van Laerhoven’s novels before (in their English translations), I knew I had to read this one, especially because of the early psychiatry theme that plays such an important part in the story. I might not work as a psychiatrist now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it a fascinating topic. And it is particularly well-suited to fiction.

To do full justice to this novel would require a very long review (even by my standards, and I do tend to go on a bit), perhaps even a whole book, but I will try and cover a few aspects of it while not spoiling it for readers. To be honest, although there is a mystery (well, mysteries) in this book, there are many interpretations possible, and I have no doubt that reading it will be a complex and unique experience for each and every reader.

The setting is momentous, both in space and time (the French trenches during WWI), but the book contains a variety of narratives, not only the overall story taking place in chronological order and involving a young psychiatrist (Michel Denis) who has recently lost an arm, during the war, when we meet him, and his adventures (both professional and personal), but also the story of the Mole, a man found at the very beginning of the novel in one of the tunnels the soldiers are digging. (That aspect of the novel, the setting in WWI, and some of the psychiatric elements reminded me of Regeneration by Pat Barker, a novel I recommend as well to anybody interested in the subject. The two books are very different, though.) He claims he has lost his memory when they find him, and he also says he is dead. The main way he communicates with others around him is through his writing, a story set many years earlier, full of symbolism, darkness, violence, and surreal elements, and whose protagonist cannot truly be him, but somehow comes to be identified with him. This diary/novel seems to be the result of automatic writing, and we have the opportunity to read it as well and reach our own conclusions. We are also provided with several letters, extremely personal in nature, one written by a character we meet earlier in the story, and another one by a character who plays a very small role in the events. And although we mostly see things from Michel Denis’s point of view (although written in the third person), we also get access to the diary of a very peculiar (and wonderful) psychiatrist he meets later in the book, Dr. Ferrand, who challenges him and helps him face his own fears and issues. Don’t worry, though. Although the book is complex, this is due to the concepts and issues it raises, not the way the story is told. The narrative is not straightforward, and it is far from an easy read, but the way the story is told is not confusing, and the changes in point of view and narrative are clearly signalled.

The novel is a kaleidoscope of narratives, perspectives, opinions, true events, dreams, imagination… and the veil separating all those is very thin indeed. The author and his book ask some pretty big questions: what makes a human being feel whole? Is it a matter of physical health, appearance and looks, having a name and identity recognised and respected by others, having a job title, holding a position, and being part of a family? What makes us human, and how much cruelty, suffering, and pressure can we endure before we disappear or become a shadow, dead to the world? How do we develop our personalities and what makes us who we are? It is only a matter o genetics, or experiences, trauma, education, influences, role models, and everything around us play a part?

Discussing the characters is not easy, because, at least as it pertains to the main characters, our experience in reading this book is akin to being privileged witnesses of their undergoing an analysis that digs deep into their minds, their early memories, their dreams… Although the mysterious identity of the Mole is at the centre of the novel (or so it seems), learning who Michael Denis really is, is as important, and we discover many truths about some of the other characters in the process. Many of them are perhaps things we’d rather not know, but we cannot choose. Everything is somehow related, and every piece of the puzzle is necessary for the final reveal (which I won’t talk about).

As I had mentioned psychiatry and my interest in it, for those who might feel as intrigued as I am, there are wonderful references to the early figures of the history of psychiatry, important psychiatric texts, famous cases… which I thoroughly enjoyed, but more than anything, I loved the discussions between Michel and Dr. Ferrand, who is a man and a professional with great insight and with ideas well before his time. His comments about the nature of psychiatry and the way it might evolve are both beautiful and thought-provoking.

Talking about beautiful, the writing is gorgeous. The different sections are written in very different styles, as it befits the characters doing the writing within the story, but they are all compelling, feel true, and are powerfully descriptive. We might be reading about a bombing, a sexual assault (yes, this book is not a light read, quite the opposite, and readers should be warned about the dark nature of the story), a historical event, or a beautiful landscape, and we feel as if we had a first-row seat, even though sometimes we’d rather be anywhere else. Reading the biography of the author is easy to understand how all he writes rings so true, as he has lived and witnessed extremes of human behaviour most of us will never (luckily) have to confront.

A few quotes from the book:

“We’re moths in the night, burning our wings every time there’s a ray of light.”

It wasn’t a sound. It was every sound sucked away from the world by a powerful vortex that distorted time so that the world shrivelled and subsequently expanded until a point where everything had to burst. In front of Denis, the wall erupted open, and behind it a great bull was belching fire.

Remember you said you couldn’t live with yourself anymore after your arm had been hacked off? That’s how you said it: hacked off. And here’s what I thought, if you can’t live with yourself, who is being ‘you’ then?

The book includes poems, quotes from famous (and not so famous) books, songs… some in French and German, and these are translated in a series of notes easily accessible, even in e-book format.

I recommend this book to readers looking for deep meanings, who love historical fiction that goes beyond the usual, who are prepared to face the darker aspects of human behaviour and the human soul, and to anybody looking for a new author who is not afraid to move beyond convention and to make us face some dark truths. A complex and rich book for those who dare to ask some tough questions. I hope it helps you find the answers you were looking for.

Thanks to the publisher and the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember, if you have a chance, to comment, share, click, like, and especially, to keep smiling and safe.

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Book review. THE DEVIL ASPECT by Craig Russell (@TheCraigRussell) (@ClaraHDiaz) Recommended to those who love #horror, psychology and historical police procedurals

Dear all:

This novel was right up my alley, and I caught onto it thanks to the recommendation of one of my reviewer friends at Booklikes. Thanks, Chars Horror Corner!

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell.

This is the description of the American version of the book:

“A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller–elegant, edgy, ingenious. Craig Russell conjures not one but two unforgettable settings: Prague between the wars, pulsing with menace, and a Gothic mental asylum, as exciting a house of horrors as I’ve ever visited. You’ll enter both with dread. You’ll dwell in them with relish.”
–A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.
Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.
Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining and impossible to put down.

This is the British version:

‘A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller . . . ingenious’ (A. J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window)

How do you find a killer when you’re surrounded by madness?

  1. As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics – the so-called ‘Devil’s Six’ – are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosárek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.

At the same time, a terrifying killer known as ‘Leather Apron’ is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself.
Maybe they are… and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?

Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Aspect-Novel-Craig-Russell/dp/0385544367/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devil-Aspect-Craig-Russell/dp/1472128354/

Yes, there are different covers as well.

Editorial Reviews:

‘Deep, dark, and twisty, The Devil Aspect will keep you up all night reading… With all the lights on. Russell has created a gripping masterpiece of a thriller!’ Alex Grecian, New York Times bestselling author of The Yard

‘A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thriller – elegant, edgy, ingenious. Craig Russell conjures not one but two unforgettable settings: Prague between the wars, pulsing with menace, and a Gothic mental asylum, as exciting a house of horrors as I’ve ever visited. You’ll enter both with dread. You’ll dwell in them with relish’ A. J. Finn, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

‘Sensational serial killer novel . . . in which twists are both jaw-dropping and logical . . . a mind-blowing storyline that will appeal to fans of Caleb Carr and Thomas Harris’ Publishers Weekly

‘Steeped in the chilling folklore of Eastern Europe and echoing the dread of a barbaric war to come, The Devil Aspect snatches the reader by the lapels for a thrilling, twisting trip through the darkest corridors of the human mind’ Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse

‘A tour de force: a clever and visceral thriller . . . an ending that left me dazed’ Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author

‘Dark, stylish and packed with jaw-dropping twists, The Devil Aspect stayed with me long after I’d turned the final page. Part Gothic horror, part crime thriller, it’s an astonishing piece of work’ M. W. Craven, author of The Puppet Show

‘A superior thriller, at once stylish, absorbing and compulsive . . . a taut and chilling tale, expertly crafted . . . I was gripped from the very first page right up to that haunting denouement’ Laura Carlin, author of The Wicked Cometh

‘Well-crafted gothic crime . . . A smart, atmospheric and entertaining read’ Kirkus Reviews

‘A Gothic masterpiece in psychological horror and creeping dread, The Devil Aspect is as disturbing as it is compelling. Be prepared to read it in one sitting – and to sleep with the lights on for a long time to come’ Neil Broadfoot, author of No Man’s Land

‘Deliciously authentic and darkly atmospheric . . . a game-changer for the world of crime fiction’ Graham Smith, author of Death in the Lakes

Join other readers in discovering The Devil Aspect

‘A fabulously gothic tale . . . I was reminded of the writing of Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘An astonishing virtuoso piece of gothic horror writing. This is a must read for all fans of literary fiction, great crime and horror writing’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘Skilfully written and richly imagined’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘Details are doled out in delicious morsels . . . the prose is extremely cinematic with intense and provocative images’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘Sophisticated, polished . . . the story has a decidedly Gothic feel’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘Fascinating, compelling, horrifying’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘I would be shocked to see this not made into a movie’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘A kaleidoscopic melange of myth, history, politics, bigotry, psychology, romance, crime, mystery and sublime horror’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘A stunning historical thriller’ Netgalley Reviewer

‘This book scared the hell out of me . . . the ending blew me away’ Netgalley Reviewer

Author Craig Russell
Author Craig Russell

About the author:

Award-winning author Craig Russell’s novels have been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Film rights to his forthcoming novel, THE DEVIL ASPECT, have been acquired by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures and will be published by Doubleday in the US, Little, Brown in the UK. Screen rights to BIBLICAL have been acquired by Imaginarium Studios/Sonar Entertainment. The first television adaptation in Germany, by Tivoli Films, of a Jan Fabel novel attracted an audience of six million viewers. Three further novels have been made into films (in one of which Craig Russell makes a cameo appearance as a detective).

Craig Russell:
* won the 2015 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize) for ‘The Ghosts of Altona’, and is currently longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for ‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid’, the latest in the Lennox series;
* was a finalist for the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2012 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize);
* won the 2008 CWA Dagger in the Library for the Fabel series;
* was a finalist for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Golden Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2007 SNCF Prix Polar in France;
* is the only non-German to be awarded the highly prestigious Polizeistern by the Polizei
Hamburg.

Official website: http://www.craigrussell.com

Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/craigrussellbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecraigrussell

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Craig-Russell/e/B0034O66E8/

According to the PR information, the novel has already been optioned by Columbia, and let me tell you I’m not surprised.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely and with some trepidation chose to review.

There is much to talk about in this book (yes, I enjoyed it, if you want the short of it. Yes, it is eerie, gothic, can be scary at times, it is full of evil deeds, some not apt for the fainthearted, and full of atmosphere), and it would also be easy to fall into revealing spoilers, so I will try to talk in general terms and will keep some of the thoughts that went through my head as I read it to myself.

Rather than trying to summarise the plot, as I have already included two versions of the blurb, I thought I’d use the author’s own words (and I recommend you to read the author’s note at the end. I suspect it will keep me thinking about this book for as long as the book itself will):

The main engines that drive the story are Jungian psychology, Central European myths and legends, the history of Czechoslovakia immediately before the Second World War and the ethnic tensions that existed within the country at that time.

This is 1939, and the author is great at bringing to life the atmosphere in Czechoslovakia at the time, the politics and the strained relationships between the different parts of the population, the ethnic minorities, the Germans, Sudeten, the Jewish inhabitants, the criminal underworld, and the increasing atmosphere of threat and impending doom and evil. He also uses the locations, both in the city, the forests, and the castle, to great effect, to the point where they almost become protagonists in their own right. I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the locations of the story despite a visit to Prague many years back, although there are some, like the Bone Church (the Sedlec Ossuary) that have intrigued me for many years, and I am sure I’m not the only one who shares in the fascination.

Having worked as a forensic psychiatrist, I could not resist the idea of reading a book set in what would have been a forensic unit of the time. And what a setting! A castle that according to legend was built to keep closed the entry to hell and that now houses the six most dangerous insane criminals of all central Europe. Both, the director of the hospital and the new doctor we meet on his way to take up his new appointment, Viktor, (no, you won’t make me tell you what happened to the previous psychiatrist in the post, don’t insist) have interesting theories to explain the madness of their patients (one akin to a contagion, like that caused by a virus, the other a similar concept to that explored and exploited often in movies and films, but in this case referring to a specific aspect of one’s personality, the so-called “Devil Aspect” of the title, rather than to multiple personalities), and the book goes into a fairly detailed explanation and exploration of those theories, including allowing us to witness the doctor’s sessions using narcotics (a very dangerous technique, I must say). I found these part of the book as fascinating, if not more, as the other part that seemed to be the more active and  thrilling part of it, but I am aware that there is a lot of telling (because each one of the six devils gets a chance to tell their story), and although they help give a global picture of the nature of the evil the book refers to, not all of them seem to be directly related to the plot of the book, so guess that some readers will not feel the same as I do about those sessions.

The second part of the action, which takes place in parallel, consists of the investigation of a series of crimes in Prague, committed by a murderer, Leather Apron, who seems intent on imitating Jack the Ripper, and we follow the efforts of a police investigator Lukas Smolàk, trying to catch him. This part of the book is more akin to a police procedural of the time and is well done. It feels like a noir detective novel, only set within a Gothic nightmarish background, not so dissimilar to the Victorian Ripper original. The clues are gruesome and so are the murders, and every time they seem closer to solving the crimes, something new comes to light and confuses matters. While to begin with Lukas appears to be the example of a seasoned detective who has seen everything and is wary of events in society at large, later the murders start to affect him more personally, and he becomes increasingly unravelled by the events, which humanises him and makes him easier to connect with.

The story is told in the third person but from each one of those characters’ points of view, with some brief intrusions from other characters’ insights, like one of the victims, or Judita, who is a bit more than a friend of Viktor and also works at the hospital. This works well to give us a better understanding and makes us empathise, and also suffer with them, in some cases. Personally, I really liked Judita, who has to face prejudice and has overcome her own mental health difficulties, and also Lukas, who shares with Viktor the determination to find the truth, and the analytical mind. I was intrigued by Viktor, not only because he is a psychiatrist, but because we learn from early on that he has survived a pretty difficult childhood and has had to cope with trauma. But his single-mindedness and his pursuit of his theory, sometimes despite the evident risks, not only to himself but to others, give him a tinge of the mad scientist, and I found him more interesting as a subject of observation than as somebody I felt connected to.

The Central and Eastern European mythology and the Jungian psychology theme add a further layer of complexity and work well in helping bring more uncertainty, menace, and confusion to the proceedings. There are dark corners and many secrets hidden by most of the protagonists; there are clues and warnings aplenty, red herrings, twists and turns, and although readers of the horror and the psychological thriller genres might have their suspicions and a variety of theories as to what is going on, a bit like the layers of the personality Viktor tries to reach, the narration also pulls us deeper and deeper into the darkness, the plot, and the castle, which is a physical stand-in for the deepest recesses of the human mind and also of human history.

I don’t want to bore you with my psychiatric insights, but I can say that although I’m not an expert in the history of psychiatry in Central Europe, the procedures followed in the castle, the way the place functions and the patient histories did not require a great suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I have known patients who have experienced a fugue-like state. No, I’ve never met anybody with multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder, and I don’t think it is a common diagnosis in the UK, but…)

I enjoyed the style of writing, full of vivid imagery and very atmospheric, which makes us see what is happening in our minds (sometimes even when we’d rather not), and felt the rhythm worked well, combining the investigation, that felt more pressing and hurried, with what was happening at the castle, that at least, to begin with, was more contemplative and serene. The closer we come to the end, the more the rhythm accelerates and both strands of the story come together. As I said, there is a twist, or even more than one, in the end, and I think this book has everything to recommend it to readers of the genre who also enjoy a Gothic setting and are eager to explore new mythologies regarding good an evil. This is not a book I’d recommend to those who don’t enjoy horror and reading about violent crimes. And it is not a book for those who prefer books fast and full of action, but it pays to stick with it, and if you’re interested in psychiatry and are looking for a different twist on the serial killer subject, I thoroughly recommended.

I am not surprised film production companies are looking at buying this book. This could become a fascinating movie.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, to Clara Diaz, and to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book launch New books Novedades literarias

#Newbook #Nuevolibro #Spanish-English/inglés-español 20 Things I’ve Learned from My Patients

Hi all:

Those of you who follow my blog will know that this has been a bit of weird year, with new things (becoming an instructor at the University of the People), other things ending (volunteering at Penistone FM), pet sitting, weddings, and plans to move back to Spain. I’ve also been translating and proofreading translations of books and I’ve written a book that I’m not sure will see the light (at least not in its current form).

After writing that book I felt at a bit of an impasse and I’ve worked on other projects but I’m not sure which one I want to work on next (perhaps there are too many things going on). In the meantime, I’ve also been looking at some of the things I had written but not published. And after rereading a short file with some common sense advice, I wondered if it might make a tiny little book, with some quotes and pictures. And then, thinking about how many people I know who want to practice their Spanish (or their English), I thought I would try a bilingual edition. (Teaching English composition at the University of the People has made me think about language proficiency).

So here is my little book…

20 Things I’ve Learned from My Patients.A Psychiatrist’s Pearls of Wisdom to Help You Thrive
By Dr. Olga Núñez Miret

20 Things I’ve Learned from My Patients. A Psychiatrist’s Pearls of Wisdom to Help You Thrive

By Dr. Olga Núñez Miret

The description is, of course, bilingual as well:

Over the years that I have worked as a psychiatrist, writer, and blogger, I’ve collected common-sense advice and thoughts that I have passed on and shared with many (patients, friends, and readers). As people don’t have much time to read and enjoy images and quotes, I decided to publish twenty of the things I have learned over the years, illustrating each one of them with a picture and a quote. And as I know many people who want to improve their Spanish but don’t dare to take on a long book, I decided to publish it as a bilingual edition, English-Spanish. I don’t claim to have found the meaning of life, but I hope you enjoy this little book.

 

Durante mis años como psiquiatra, escritora y bloguera, he acumulado consejos y reflexiones de sentido común que he compartido con mucha gente, incluyendo pacientes, amigos y lectores. Como sé que la gente no tiene mucho tiempo para leer hoy en día, y les gusta compartir imágenes y citas, decidí publicar veinte de las cosas que he aprendido durante mi carrera, ilustrando cada una de ellas con una imagen y una cita. Conozco a muchas personas que quieren mejorar su inglés pero no se atreven a enfrentarse a un libro largo, así que decidí publicarlo en versión bilingüe, en inglés y español. No pretendo haber descubierto el sentido de la vida, pero espero que disfrutéis de este librito.

Here my dedication, so you understand what the subtitle refers to.

To my friend Iman, who is great at delivering accurate insights in a few words, and to Rose Upton, Sister at the A&E Department at Eastbourne DGH when I started training in Psychiatry. Her disparaging comments about her nurses’ pearls of wisdom, which Iman feedback to me at the time, have remained with me to this day. I suspect mine wouldn’t deserve a kinder opinion from her either.

And a couple of the images I’ve used (all royalty free from Unsplash, including the one I’ve used for the cover):

It is really short and, well, if you’ve read the description you know everything you need to know.

If you fancy a copy, let me know. They looked OK when I checked but images can be tricky (I’ll talk about that at some point).

It will become available in many other places, but so far you can find it here:

Amazon      KOBO    APPLE 

Thanks so much to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle (@davidboyle1958) #RBRT An insightful and clear introduction to Laing’s life and work in time for his rediscovery

Hi all:

Today I bring you another one of the reviews I’ve written as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (don’t forget to visit her blog, here). As a psychiatrist, I could not resist this one.

Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle
Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle

Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle

The radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing took the world by storm in the 1960s and 1970s with his ideas about madness, families and people’s need for authenticity. At the height of his fame, he could fill stadiums like Bob Dylan and often did so. He became an icon of the movement that held psychiatry to be an agency of repression, his phrases on a million hippy T-shirts. Then he fell from grace, flung out of the medical profession, and his influence has been waning since. His basic ideas have been regarded as having been discredited. Yet, despite this, his influence is also everywhere – but largely unnoticed and unremarked.

This book tells the extraordinary human story of his struggle, first with the authorities as a psychiatrist in the army and then a series of mental hospitals. It explains his extraordinary influence in the context of the upheavals of those psychedelic days – and it looks at what we can still learn from Laing today. Boyle finds he still has an unexpectedly potent message.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Ronald-Laing-rise-radical-psychiatrist-ebook/dp/B01N4OO83K/

I know the publishing company is organising events and giveaways so don’t forget to visit and click the links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ronald-Laing-rise-radical-psychiatrist/dp/0993523986/

Author David Boyle
Author David Boyle

About the author:

I live in the South Downs, in Sussex, and write in a small green hut at the end of the garden – mainly about history, politics, economics and the future. I find that history now absorbs me the most, from Richard the Lionheart to Enigma and with a great deal in between. I try to recapture some of the spirit, even the magic, of the past – I’ve also written quite widely about fairies (I find this doesn’t sit easily with writing about economics, but I still wrestle with holding the two sides together…).

I’ve found myself more recently writing about codes and the navy, which is a lifelong fascination, and – most recently – writing about family members as well, in Unheard, Unseen (about early submarines) and my great-great-grandfather is the central figure in Scandal.

But then, where the magic and the economics can potentially come together is in fiction – notably in my Leaves the World to Darkness (fairies) and The Piper (money).

https://www.amazon.com/David-Boyle/e/B000APQC2K/

My review:

I’m writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was provided with an ARC copy of the book that I voluntarily chose to review.

I’m a psychiatrist and although I studied Medicine in Spain I have trained as a psychiatrist in the UK. Despite that, R.D. Laing and his ideas weren’t a part of our curriculum (I don’t know if things have changed now, as that was almost 25 years ago). During one of my training jobs, one of the psychotherapy tutors showed us a recording of an interview with R.D. Laing and he talked to us about him. He came across as a fascinating man with very interesting ideas, quite contrary to the standard focus on biological psychiatry, evidence-based interventions and emphasis on classification and symptoms rather than people. I read several of his books at the time and although I was fascinated by his ideas I didn’t have the time to study his figure and the rest of his work in detail.

This short book (the text takes up around 88% of the book as after that there are some extracts from other books from the same publisher, The Real Press) does an excellent job of highlighting both the person (the biography is succinct but it manages to include the salient points of his family life, his work experience and how both influenced his ideas) and his works. It also places Laing’s figure in its historical and socio-political era, linking it to other thinkers and movements of the time (hippy movement, antipsychiatry, existentialism, LSD culture…). Due to its length, it is not an exhaustive study of the individual works but it presents a good overview that will allow those who’ve never heard of R.D. Laing to gain some familiarity with his life and his work, and will bring together loose ends for those who might have read some of his works but don’t know how they fit into his career (because, as the author points out, some of Laing’s books are very difficult to understand). This text also provides a good guide to students interested in going deeper into Laing’s work and offers suggestions for further reading (both of Laing’s own works and of works about him). The book is being launched to coincide with the premier of a movie about Laing called ‘Mad to Be Normal’ starring David Tennant, and it should be a great complement to those who might come out of the movie intrigued and wanting to know more without embarking on complex theoretical books (that are very much of their time).

Boyle does a great job of extracting the most important aspects of Laing’s work and life and shows a good understanding and empathy towards the man and his ideas. Rather than focus exclusively on the most scandalous aspects of his life, he emphasises his care for patients, his own disturbed childhood, and how he insisted patients were unique and not just cogs in a machine that had to learn to show the required and accepted behaviour. Although many of his ideas have been discredited, his feelings about the profession and his insistence on listening to patients and putting their needs first resonate today as much as they did at the time. Personally, I’m pleased to see his figure is being re-evaluated. Never too soon.

Laing is one of these people whose life and scandals throw a big shadow over his work, but this book and, hopefully, the movie, might help new generations to rediscover him.

I could not resist but share a bit of one of the interviews with R.D. Laing (there are quite a few much longer on YouTube if you’re interested):

And the trailer of the movie Mad to Be Normal

 

Thanks so much to Rosie and to The Real Press for the copy of the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview MAD OR BAD: CRIME AND INSANITY IN VICTORIAN BRITAIN by David J Vaughan (@David_J_Vaughan) Great cases and a must for psychiatrists and lawyers

Hi all:

OK, you won’t be able to complain now. Neither yesterday’s nor today’s books are thrillers. Although, the subject of the book today is… well, yes, many thrillers and even horror stories could be written about it (and have).

Mad or Bad. Crime and Insanity in Victorian England by David J. Vaughan
Mad or Bad. Crime and Insanity in Victorian England by David J. Vaughan

Mad or Bad. Crime and Insanity in Victorian England by David J. Vaughan

In a violent 19th century, desperate attempts by the alienists – a new wave of ‘mad-doctor’ – brought the insanity plea into Victorian courts. Defining psychological conditions in an attempt at acquittal, they faced ridicule, obstruction – even professional ruin – as they strove for acceptance and struggled for change. It left ‘mad people’ hanged for offenses they could not remember, and ‘bad’ people freed on unscrupulous pleas.

Written in accessible language, this book – unlike any before it – retells twenty-five cases, from the renowned to obscure, including an attempt to murder a bemused Queen Victoria; the poisoner Dove and the much-feared magician; the king’s former wet-nurse who slaughtered six children; the worst serial killer in Britain…and more.

A Who’s Who introduces the principal players – lifesaving medics, like Maudsley and Bucknill; intransigent lawyers like Bramwell and Parke., while a convenient Glossary of ‘terms and conditions’: ranging from ‘Insane on Arraignment’ to Her Majesty’s Pleasure, ‘Ticket of Leave’ to ‘Burden of Proof’, helps to explain the outcomes of the cases.

Insanity Conditions presents, in glossary format, the diagnosed maladies put forward in court. Rarely accepted, more often rejected, by those keen on justice in its traditional form.

A History of Debate explains the titular subject – through graspable language and a window in time. How the ones found ‘not guilty on the grounds of insanity’ were curiously handled in Victorian law.

A chapter devoted to madness and women – from hysteria to murder, ‘monthly madness’ to crime. Raising opportune questions about the issue of gender, and exposing the truths of a masculine world.

https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Bad-Insanity-Victorian-Britain-ebook/dp/B01MT7JAAH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mad-Bad-Insanity-Victorian-Britain-ebook/dp/B01MT7JAAH/

https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Bad-Insanity-Victorian-Britain/dp/1473864135/

Author David J. Vaughan
Author David J. Vaughan

About the author:

Former Assistant County Archaeologist of Wiltshire, living and writing in Herefordshire’s Golden Valley. Now a published author (Pen & Sword, The History Pressetc), historian, blogger, book reviewer, media presenter and public speaker, David J. Vaughan writes both fact and fiction, including on history (often bloody) and crime & insanity in the Victorian era. He is also a ‘jobbing’ feature writer across mainstream and independent publications.

David’s two latest books are MadOr Bad? Crime & Insanity In Victorian Britain (P&S, 2017) and TheLittle Book Of Herefordshire (THP, 2016). Other works include Bloody British History: Salisbury (THP, 2014). All are available in leading High Street bookshops and online and via his website http://www.davidjvaughan.co.uk.  The Secret Life of Celestina Sommer – a very Victorian Murder is an Amazon download

Current projects include his new crime-centred novels – introducing a detective partnership fit for our post-modern age – and television screenplays which rework the popular Victorian drama back to its dark murderous roots.

When not writing, David reviews titles for, amongst others, Pickering and Chatto (now Routledge), academic publisher of related journals, monographs and books.

David also owns and writes his blog about ‘Crime and Insanity in Victorian England‘ at criminalunacy.blogspot.co.uk, getting in excess of 2000 hits each month.

And gives lectures and talks on his areas of interest: criminal madness, local and regional history, the archaeology of Britain and prehistory of the world.

My review:

Thanks to Pen and Sword History for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

As a psychiatrist, and having worked in forensic psychiatry in the UK for a number of years, mad or bad is indeed one of the questions that we’re asked very often. (Of course, the two categories are not mutually exclusive, but in the eyes of the law there are certain prerequisites that need to be complied with to be able to apportion guilt). Therefore, I was very curious to read this book that dealt with the issue of insanity and criminal justice in the Victorian era.

The book is divided into five parts, discussing the main players in the debate, the conditions that were listed under the insanity label, the history of the debate, a part discussing ‘mad women, bad women’, and the last and longest part that discusses in more detail the case studies that caused the debates and the legal changes discussed in the book.

Personally, I was fascinated by reading details about the cases behind some of the defences and legal terms still in use today. Having an overall view of the period and what was behind the discussions illuminates and helps explain the legal changes, placing them at a historical and social moment in time. As a psychiatrist, I was particularly interested in the issues of diagnosis and the discussions as to the different categories used to classify disturbed mental states, including some that sound difficult to believe now (like the many ‘women’s conditions’ that justified all kinds of crimes). Although the details of some of the cases and the discussions might sound bizarre, the truth is that matters are not that clear even now, and even if the debates are framed differently, a decision is not always easy to reach.

The case stories are fascinating to read in their own right and cover the most famous and relevant cases of the era. They provide a great overview without going into excessive detail and would be a good starting point for people who want to delve deeper into the subject, whilst providing a general background to others who might be looking for orientation and general reading on the topic. The book is well organised, written clearly, and provides a good summary of the main issues whilst illustrating them well without excess detail or the use of unnecessarily complicated terms.

A good read for anybody interested in issues of criminal justice, insanity and law in Victorian England, particularly those that pertain to the treatment of women by the legal system of the time. A word of warning: the passing of time hasn’t made these cases less upsetting or shocking, so although the book doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on the gore details, you might find some of them hard to read.

Thanks to Pen and Sword and to the author, thanks to all for you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Book launch book promo

#Newbook Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies out on 29th Dec. Special price $0.99 #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember I’ve been talking about the next book in my series Escaping Psychiatry whose main character, Mary Miller, is a psychiatrist and a writer that somehow gets involved in a number of criminal cases (sometimes more closely than she’d like). Well, now it’s finally really close. Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies is out on the 29th of December. Yeah! (I’m punching the air!)

Here a reminder and a bit of a taster.

 

Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies
Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies

Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies

A woman shot dead. No enemies, no motive, only a story about how she swapped bodies with another woman found on her computer. The other woman in the story, the owner of the swapped body, goes into labour and won’t talk.

When FBI Agent Dave Dean asks psychiatrist/writer Mary Miller for her assistance, she doesn’t know that The Case of the Swapped Bodies is not the only mystery in Port Haven. A hit and run, an armed robbery gone wrong and questions about family traditions, priorities and legacies come into play and complicate matters. The line between fact and fiction is more tenuous than anybody realised and suspense is on the menu.

This is the third book in the Escaping Psychiatry series and it poses new challenges for Mary Miller. And not all the challenges are professional ones. How do you carry on when you’ve survived the unthinkable?

I’ve shared bits of the book before, and as it’s just about to be published (everything going well), I thought I’d share another sample.

Here, Mary has just read a document that Dave Dean, an FBI agent who rescued her in a previous case that ended up with the agreement that she might work as a consultant with them, has sent her. It’s about a case. I think the sample is pretty self-explanatory.

Mary was still staring at the computer screen. If what Dave had sent her was a story, it ended with quite a good cliff-hanger. But why would Dave send her a story? He had mentioned a case and said they needed her help.

Her phone rang. It was the man himself. “I thought you might have finished reading it.”

“Yes, you’re right. Not long since.”

“And what do you think?”

“What do I think? Interesting story. But what does it have to do with the case you were talking about?”

“We’re not sure, but perhaps everything.”

“Everything? You’re being cryptic today.”

“You know I like to keep a sense of mystery in my life.”

Mary wondered about Dave’s evident change of mood but decided not to question it. Whatever would be, would be.

“You’re doing well on the mystery front.”

“OK. I’ll tell you the facts, in brief. The police are called to a posh neighbourhood in an up and coming town in the West Coast, at a commutable distance from Silicon Valley—Port Haven. The residents of an upmarket apartment building think they’ve heard a shot. They find the owner of the apartment, Charlie Salter, shot in the chest. She mumbles something about ‘swapped bodies’ before she loses consciousness. She dies on the way to the hospital. The police recover the file you’ve just read from her computer.”

“So…she’d written herself into a story.”

“Well, yes. That’s what they thought. Until they checked the details and discovered that there is a real Maggie Williams with a husband called Todd, three daughters—”

“Don’t tell me. Called Samantha, Kerry and Lana.”

“Bingo! Yes, and she’s due to have a baby any minute, and suddenly she’s become quite successful, setting up an online company with no evident experience or skills in that kind of thing before.”

“And…”

“They went to interrogate her and she went into labour. She had a healthy baby boy. Mother and baby are OK. After all that, she wouldn’t talk. Not a word. And she’s hasn’t said anything since. Oh, and the best thing about it… They discovered that the file had originally come from Maggie’s computer.”

“Oh…”

“So, do you fancy going to Port Haven? Barnes and I should be there tomorrow evening at the latest.”

“It’s not that clear that it might have anything to do with psychiatry.”

“Well, that’s true. But it’s possible that she isn’t talking because there’s something the matter with her. And what do you have to lose? It’ll sure be a good story… And we’ll get to spend some time together.”

As a special offer until the end of the last week of January, it’s only $0.99.
Here are the links:
AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO    NOOK    APPLE   SCRIBD

Just in case you haven’t caught up with the other two, you can check them here. And, remember that the prequel is FREE! Ah, and Colleen Chesebro (check here) has given the prequel an award. In case you don’t believe it, here it is! And don’t forget to check the rest of the winners!

Colleen Chesbro Best Mystery or Suspense 2016 Book Award badge
Colleen Chesbro Best Mystery or Suspense 2016 Book Award

Thanks to Colleen for her award, thanks to all of you for your patience, for reading, and like, share (if you know anybody who might be interested), comment and CLICK!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview MEDEA’S CURSE by Anne Buist A forensic psychiatrist in Australia. Mental health, abuse, death and professional boundaries.

Hi all:

Today a book that when I read the description I could not resist.

Review of Medea's Curse by Anne Buist
Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist

Medea’s Curse by Anne Buist

Legend Press

Mystery & ThrillersGeneral Fiction (Adult)

Description

Shortlisted for two Davitt Awards – Best Adult and Best Debut

‘A plot-twisting page-turner… I was completely gripped’ — Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing

‘A thrilling read that will have you on the edge of your seat’ — BuzzFeed

‘Keeps the reader guessing to the very last page’ — Lisa Hall, author of Between You and Me

Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication.

Now she’s being stalked. Could it be a hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case?

Natalie doesn’t know. And with another missing child case on her desk, the time for answers is running out.

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Legend Press for providing me with a free copy of this book.

When I first read the description of the book, I thought this was the book for me. I do read in a variety of genres, I am a psychiatrist and I worked in forensic psychiatry (although in the UK, not in Australia like the protagonist) for a number of years. I also write and have a psychiatrist as one of my characters, so I was interested in this novel, not only as a reader but also as a writer.

As I read the novel I realised that perhaps I wasn’t the best person to give feedback on it, as although I enjoyed the descriptions and discussions of mental health matters that are one of the pillars of the book, I was not in a position to comment on how somebody who wasn’t familiar with the material, would find it (although from the comments I’ve read, it seems people enjoy it and don’t find it difficult or too detailed).

The novel is told in the third person from the point of view of Nicole, a young female psychiatrist who works in a forensic setting, both in a hospital and also sees outpatients in her own practice. She only works with female patients, and has her own mental health problems (she is bipolar, and regularly sees a therapist, currently only for supervision, Declan, who functions as the voice of reason, although unfortunately he isn’t always given the full information). Nicole identifies herself closely with some of her patients and finds it difficult not to get over-involved (after all, she had also been an inpatient, and had a difficult childhood, like many of the women she works with). That causes quite a few of the complex situations she sees herself in, although perhaps also makes her get ‘results’, albeit at a high personal cost.

Nicole is not a model of professionality or a model patient either. Sometimes she doesn’t take her medication, she mixes it with alcohol, and she struggles with issues of confidentiality. She does not get on well with the Professor who is the star psychiatrist in the department where she works, and she has her own morality that might clash with accepted standards(she does not want long-term romantic relationships, but sex with a married man, even one she knows due to work, is OK). She is also not the wisest and tries to convince herself that she is not scared and does not need anybody when she gets evidence that she’s being stalked. And if you think of psychiatrist as bookish and boring, Nicole is none of that. She plays in a band, rides a big motorbike and favours leather gear.

A couple of warnings: there is sex in the novel, although not explicit and too descriptive, but if you don’t like sexual language, there is some. From the point of view of the plot, it helps demonstrate that Nicole’s impulsivity spreads to many areas of her life, illustrates her high mood at one point, and at the end, it helps us get a better picture of what her true priorities are. The second warning is about the main subject of the book. The author works in postnatal mental health, and the patients Nicole works with and the cases being investigated pertain to infanticides or child murders, and also to paedophilia and sexual abuse, and although not gory, the psychological descriptions ring true and might be difficult to read if you are especially sensitive to those themes. It is not a light or feel-good book, that’s a fact.

The different women Nicole works with and their different families, mirror one another and at times it might be difficult to extricate the smaller characters and differentiate between them even if you’re playing close attention, but the main characters’ psychological makeup rings true, and there are masterful descriptions of symptoms of mental illness, like those Nicole experiences when she’s going high. I could also identify professionally with the issues Nicole has with the difficult interface between being a psychiatrist to her patients, and also having to take into account that they are (or might be) criminals and might represent a risk to others. She struggles with issues of confidentiality and risk, and that is one of the true complexities of forensic psychiatry.

The plot is complex and twists and turns, making the reader share with the protagonist in her doubts about diagnosis, guilty parties, about her stalker, and even about her personal relationships.

I recommend it to readers with a particular interest in mental health and psychological thrillers, who are not unduly concerned about sex or child abuse and murder in their books, and who enjoy complex characterisations and plots.

https://www.amazon.com/Medeas-Curse-Page-Turning-Psychological-Psychiatrist-ebook/dp/B01B4PP7T8/

Thanks to Net Galley, to Legend Press and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and do like, share, comment, and CLICK! And Merry Xmas!

 

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Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings FREE Writing samples

#Free Last Chapter of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

This is the last week when I’m sharing the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry. Yes! We’ve got to the last chapter! Although  I have the draft of the next story in the series, I’m not going to punish you with it yet but I’ll be catching up on reviews, life and other projects…

First… A reminder. I finally published the prequel and it’s FREE, hopefully in most places by now . (If not, please report to Amazon adding the link to one of the other sites, as they need to be informed of links in each place it seems. I have reported links in the UK but they’re taking their time. Otherwise I’m happy to send it to you personally.)

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret

How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.

Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.

If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.
Here you can check a preview live:

AMAZON (e-book)      KOBO    NOOK    APPLE  SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY

And without further ado, here is Chapter 8

8.     The Truth

As part of her ongoing training, Mary moved to a different job, and although it was only a few miles from where she lived, it involved some adjustments and getting used to a new routine. It was also a busy job and she didn’t have much time to think about anything else. When her phone rang at 6:30 one morning, she jumped out of bed, thinking she was on-call. Then she remembered she wasn’t and wondered who’d be calling her so early.

“Hi, Mary. I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“Phil! I thought it was a call from work.”

“Are you on-call?”

“No, but it took me a while to remember that. Not many people call me at this time of the morning. Is anything wrong?”

“Eh… No, no. Nothing like that. Are you following the trial? Fenton’s?”

“Not closely. I read a bit about it and I saw something in the news, but I haven’t paid it that much attention. I’ve changed jobs recently, and it’s always a bit hectic. How is it going?”

“It’s all very awkward. Lance went to work for the DA’s office and is sitting at the prosecution table. He hasn’t opened his mouth but it’s unnerving. Mr Wright tried to talk the judge into throwing him out, but Lance’s name wasn’t on any of the previous depositions and he wasn’t listed officially. She—the judge—warned the DA that she’d not only dismiss Lance but would throw out the trial on a technicality if they used any privileged information they should not have had access to. But it has opened the trial right up.”

“It sounds quite tough.”

“Well, I don’t think they have a case. There’s plenty of evidence of Green’s deranged behaviour, and Fenton always tried to do the right thing.”

‘Yeah, right,’ Mary thought. “So, when do you expect it to finish?”

“One can never be precise in these situations, but I imagine Friday. That’s why I was phoning you. Could you take the Friday off and come? Perhaps you could come on Thursday evening and stay over the weekend, if you can escape. Percy suggested you might want to be present, and I think it’s a great idea. Especially if you might become an expert witness at some point in the future. People always think they know how it is because they watch TV programs and movies, but it isn’t like that.”

“I’m not working this weekend. I’ll try to see if I can get Friday off. I’d like to see the resolution of the case. I have the feeling it will be interesting.”

“You’ll probably be disappointed, but we can do something nice over the weekend, and I’m sure that Ryan would love to see you again.”

“Oh, Phil! Stop that!”

“Only joking!” He laughed. “Give me a call! And have a good day!”

Mary managed to get a day off, and the doctor who was on call on Friday agreed to keep an eye on her cases. She phoned Phil to confirm she was going, and on Thursday, as arranged, he went to pick her up at the train station. As they were riding in a taxi, Mary asked, “So, will tomorrow be the last day, then?”

“Very likely. It’s their turn to question Fenton’s agent tomorrow morning. And after that…well, that’s it. Closings and then up to the jury. We might not hear the verdict tomorrow, but I don’t expect it will be long.”

“And how has it gone so far?”

“Well, other than the evidence that Fenton was very forceful when he defended himself, there isn’t anything else against him. There have been plenty of witnesses that have talked about Green’s behaviour and how he had been harassing Fenton non-stop for months.”

Mary was quiet for a while. “I always imagined that the real protagonist of the novel, the real David Collins, whatever his true name is, would have turned up.”

“What for?”

“Well, it would have given even more strength to the story that Green wasn’t well and his suspicions were unfounded.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t think there’s any danger that Fenton will get into serious trouble. Self-defence. And, if he’s such a private person, perhaps he’s out of reach of the media.”

Mary shook her head. “Unlikely. The case has been going on for a long time. And it’s everywhere. Anyway, just wondering.”

Next morning they went to court. Percy and Steve sat at the defence table with Fenton. Phil took Mary’s arm and made her sit next to him on the bench behind them. Ryan appeared a few minutes later and sat next to her. A handsome African-American man, wearing a blue suit, sat at the prosecution table, talking animatedly to Lance. Phil saw Mary looking at them and said, “The DA. Stanton.”

Percy and Steve turned to say hello. Percy looked sideways. “I wonder what they’re talking about. You wouldn’t have guessed things are going badly for them, looking at how animated they seem.”

Fenton looked back briefly and nodded in their direction. Mary had the feeling that he wasn’t terribly pleased to see her. But he had more important things to think about, so perhaps it was only her imagination.

Judge Pearson, a woman in her early sixties with curly red hair, entered, announced by the clerk, and they all stood. Once they were ordered to sit, proceedings started. Although Mary had not met Mike Spinner, Fenton’s agent, she didn’t expect anything new from his statement. Stanton asked him about his background and then what he knew about the origins of the book. He also asked briefly about Green’s behaviour. Everything seemed to fit in with the version of events Fenton had given. Stanton approached the table, looked at a piece of paper that Lance showed him, and then walked slowly back to the witness stand. “Mr Spinner, was there ever talk of an injunction?”

“An injunction? I did talk to one of my lawyers about it, but there was the complication of the tours and the continuous travelling that would have made it difficult to fix the terms. And even keeping him at a certain distance, if it had been agreed, with the amount of public attention and people coming and going… It would have been impossible to enforce. It wouldn’t have worked. There was no point.”

“So, you never heard Mr Fenton or Mr Green mention an injunction,” Stanton asked again.

“No. Not really, no.”

“Not really?” Stanton, who had been walking back towards the table, turned around quickly and fixed his eyes on the witness.

“The witness has already replied to the question, Your Honour,” Steve said.

“No, not really,” Judge Pearson replied, with a smile. “Proceed.” She nodded in Stanton’s direction. Mary noticed how Fenton’s neck reddened.

“I mean…the last time Green came to a book signing, I had been called away to talk to the bookshop owner, and we both heard a kerfuffle. Two of the security guards were dragging Green away by the time I got there. The security guards later told me that Green had managed to get close to the table by wearing a name tag like the bookshop employees and he had got right next to Fenton, and had whispered something in his ear.

“They told me Fenton had replied something very low, that they hadn’t heard and waved at them, and when they were taking him away, once out of the bookshop, Green had said that no injunction would prevent him from telling the truth, or something of the sort. Nothing new, although I don’t know where the idea about the injunction came from. I did ask Oliver—Mr Fenton—later, but he told me that all Green had told him was more of the same, that he had used his story and he’d get redress. Nothing else.”

Steve seemed like he was about to stand up and object, Mary imagined ‘hearsay’, but Percy stopped him. He seemed intrigued.

“Thanks.” Stanton picked up a piece of paper that Lance was offering him. He walked to the witness stand and showed the paper to Spinner. “Do you recognise this mobile phone number?”

“No. I don’t have a lot of memory for numbers, though. I could check my phone…”

“Isn’t it the accused’s number?”

“No, no. That number I know very well.”

Stanton smiled and said there was nothing else. Spinner was told he could leave and stepped down.

“We wish to recall Oliver Fenton,” Stanton said.

Percy, Steve and Fenton looked at each other.

“I need to confer with my client,” Percy said, standing up.

“Let’s have a brief recess. We’ll be back in half an hour,” Judge Pearson said.

Once the judge had left, Percy turned to Phil and Ryan. “Come with us. And you too, Mary.”

“But is it OK with Mr Fenton?” Mary asked.

Fenton turned to look at her and smiled, his lips pressed so hard that they had become a white line. “Of course I’m OK. Do you think I’m scared of you? I know you have no superpowers and you can’t read my mind. And anyway, I have nothing to hide.”

Mary shrugged and followed them. They went to a side room whilst the guard waited outside.

“So, what’s that about an injunction?” Percy asked, as soon as they were all sitting down.

“I know nothing about any injunction. Who knows what he might have said? Some mad idea that came into his head,” Fenton replied, dismissive.

“And that mobile number?” Ryan asked.

“Which mobile number?”

“Evidently the prosecution asked your agent about a phone number. Is there anything we should be worried about?” Percy asked.

“Why didn’t you object to all that blah, blah from Mike? It was all hearsay. Green whispered something, I said something. It means nothing. What could he have said?”

“Surprises are no good in this business, Fenton,” Wright said. “We can prepare for almost anything, but not for what we don’t know.”

Fenton sighed. “I’ve already told you. I’m sorry he died but the man was crazy,” he said, letting his head drop.

“OK,” Percy said. Then, he turned to look at Mary. “Any questions, Doctor Miller?”

“I was just wondering…” Fenton looked up and glared at her, “why whisper? He’s shouted about the fact that you’d used his story, loud and clear, and he’d told anybody who would listen to him. Why whisper it in your ear? It makes no sense. He must have told you something else. Why would he talk about telling the truth and how nobody would stop him? If it was the same allegation, he’d already told the truth. And don’t reply that he was just mad. He hadn’t done that before, and he’d been pretty vociferous and consistent. He must have had a reason. A reason that got him killed.”

Fenton stood up from the chair so fast that it fell on the floor, making an echoing sound. “You think you know everything. What do you really know?”

“That man was obsessed with the truth. He must have found something out, or suspected something, but had no confirmation of it. That’s why he whispered it to you. Your reaction confirmed his suspicions,” Mary said, still sitting down, looking up at him and keeping a low voice and a calm expression.

“Yes? And what do you think that was? Perhaps you really have superpowers?” Fenton said.

“I have no idea, although if I had to hazard a guess… You invented the whole story. The book is a work of fiction. No, you didn’t use Green’s story, because you didn’t use anybody’s story. You just made it up. And he must have worked it out somehow. Perhaps you contradicted yourself at some point, or perhaps he checked and discovered that you hadn’t really worked for a phone helpline. Whatever the circumstances, when he told you, you threatened him with an injunction.”

Fenton had paled and was shaking slightly. “The harassment was one thing, but that could have ended my career. There have been scandals for plagiarism and being economical with the truth in the literary world, but that… It would have been the end right at the beginning. I just got a phone, no contract, untraceable, not registered, and called him. I was planning on meeting him somewhere discreet and offering him money to keep his mouth shut and disappear, but when I phoned him he told me not to waste my time that he was not for sale. That he wanted to make an example of me for exploiting that topic and making a profit out of a lie, out of something that had hurt so many people.

“Then I told him I’d taken out an injunction against him and he wouldn’t be able to follow me around or turn up at my apartment ever again. I knew that would provoke him and he’d turn up. And it would be perfect for me, as he’d be invading my home and I could allege self-defence. I sent the receptionist out with an excuse and waited, in hiding. When he turned up I did give him a chance to take some money and leave but he refused. He turned around and said he would talk to the press and I…”

Percy looked aghast. Steve, Phil and Ryan had stood up too and were looking at each other, lost for words.

“They must have a recording of the phone call… Or at least a record of it,” Steve said. “And they must have tracked it back to you. It’s evidence of murder. It was planned.”

“He didn’t die there and then! Can’t we just go after the hospital, claim they mishandled it?” Fenton asked.

Phil shook his head. “The chain of causation is clear.”

“But he had been harassing me!”

“Yes, but that is not the motivation for it. Self-defence won’t cut it if they have the call,” Ryan said.

“I’ll have the mental health assessment!” Fenton shouted.

Mary shook her head. “You’re free to ask for another opinion, but…”

Percy shrugged. “No point. Lance knows Fenton, and he was there when we discussed his mental health. He also knows he refused to have an assessment. Although he cannot testify to that, they’ll have no problem finding experts who’ll say there’s no evidence of any disorder. At least nothing that would get him off on an insanity plea. And I can’t think it would be easy for us to find somebody who’d say the opposite.”

“What shall we do, then?”

“Change the plea to guilty. We can try to claim overwork, stress, the harassment, but it depends on how generous they are feeling. We’ll try to negotiate a plea bargain,” Phil said.

The clerk knocked at the door. “Time to go back.”

Once inside, after the judge had returned to the courtroom, Percy approached the bench. After listening to him, the judge called Stanton. The two lawyers had a few words and the judge adjourned. This time the judge, Stanton, Lance, Wright and Steve met in private. The public waited outside. Ryan asked Mary, “How did you know?”

“I didn’t know for certain. It just struck me as a possibility when I started talking. And Fenton’s reaction just confirmed it.”

“Perhaps you have superpowers,” Phil said.

Mary laughed.

Shortly after, they returned. There was a change of plea and the judge adjourned for sentencing.

“Extraordinary,” Percy said on the way out, shaking Mary’s hand. “I seriously hope you’ll work for us in the future.”

“Thanks very much. I’m very busy in my current job, but I must admit it’s been very interesting.”

“And you can undertake any formation you deem necessary, at our cost.”

“Thanks!”

Phil saw Lance walking towards the door and called out. “Eh, Lance, don’t you remember your friends?”

“Hi, guys! Mary…” he smiled warmly at her.

“Come on, tell us. What did you have?” Ryan asked him, patting his shoulder.

“Now, now, you know I can’t tell. Confidential. See you soon!”

Ryan muttered something about secrets and they all left court. The case made it big in the media: television, radio, newspapers… Of course, there was a book written about it not long after.

Mary did take up some of the training on offer, about writing reports, being an expert witness, and studied the workings of the criminal justice system.

Approximately a year after the trial, Phil called Mary. “I have good news.”

“Yes? Tell me more.”

“Do you remember I told you Wright was looking into expanding? He’s agreed to have me set up a new branch of the firm in the south. I’m not sure if it’s Savannah or Atlanta. I need to go and check in more detail. He’s giving me full independence, so I’m planning on doing plenty of pro-bono, hiring local lawyers and—”

“Being more ethically correct.”

“Correct! The best of both worlds. I’m not leaving the firm, but I don’t have to condone all their practices, or follow them.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“What do you say? Do you fancy a trip to the south?”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

The end (of the beginning)

Just in case you’ve missed the other chapters, here are the links (I’ll create a page with all the links so you can always go back to it at your own leisure).

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

And this is the last week Escaping Psychiatry is available at a special price, so, here it is! 
Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:

And a few links:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY OYSTER PAPER

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

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#FREEChapter2 of my psychological thriller ‘Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings’ #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

As I promised last week, here is chapter 2 of the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry. Escaping Psychiatry Beginnings.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

2.     The Firm

“Mary! Here you are!”

Phil hugged her and slapped her on the back. He looked well. Dressed casually, well, what passed for casually in Phil’s books, perfectly ironed chinos, Italian black leather shoes, a polo shirt, and impeccably cut and combed hair, and with a huge smile on his face. He definitely had something planned.

“You look like the personification of a WASP on his day off,” Mary said.

He chuckled. “Now, now. I’m wearing full length trousers. No tweed or golfing attire. And in my heart of hearts I’m a small town boy.”

“If you say so.”

He grabbed Mary’s arm by the elbow and picking up the suitcase she had deposited on the floor, guided her inside. “Come in, come in, have a look. You can drop your things in your room, here, and then we’ll have breakfast.”

“I had a drink on the train.”

“But I haven’t!”

Mary had a quick look at the apartment while Phil set the table. Tall ceilings, huge windows and an air of quiet elegance. A bit old-fashioned, but not pretentious.

“What do you think?”

“It’s a nice building and a quiet street, especially for Manhattan.”

“The rent is high, but I prefer it to one of those slick new apartments with no personality or charm.”

They munched on the toast, quietly. Finally Mary asked, “But how do you find the firm? I know you had misgivings. You thought it would be good for your career, but didn’t necessarily like their ethics.”

“I still don’t, although I keep quiet about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell, kind of situation. But they do have some of the best lawyers and I’ve learned a lot already. And there’s plenty more to come, I’m sure.”

“Are you thinking about effecting change from the inside?” Mary asked.

Phil didn’t look up from his plate, and kept playing with the marmalade and the butter, making patterns with his knife. “I don’t have a master plan as yet. So far I haven’t seen them do anything too questionable, although yes, they have a preference for taking cases that attract plenty of attention and are likely to be on the newspapers and TV. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with free publicity.”

Mary put her right hand on his, and managed to make him stop playing with his food and look up.

“Uh?”

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of defecting to the dark side?”

He laughed, although his laughter sounded flat and not genuine. “Let’s not get melodramatic. I think the Force is still with me. They are committed to taking up a percentage of pro-bono cases, and I’ve volunteered. Sometimes one has to compromise. Even the devil can be a good ally if the cause is worth it.”

“Be careful. I fear for your soul.”

As he opened his mouth to reply, his mobile phone rang. Mary didn’t have one and didn’t want one. The thought of somebody being able to get hold of her anywhere and in any circumstances made her quite nervous. She hated being on-call, because you could never be completely at peace and you could be summoned at any time, and she felt that having one of those contraptions would be the equivalent of being forever on call. But Phil loved his gadgets, like most men she knew. And she also suspected it was a status thing. Although, thinking about it, it was probably one of his firm’s requirements.

“Yes. Of course I’m interested in being there when we talk to the client.” Phil put his hand on what must have been the microphone and made a gesture with his head, towards the phone. “It’s about that case I was telling you about. The writer,” he whispered.

Mary nodded. So far, she only knew the case involved a writer in some fashion or other but nothing else. He was doing a good job of building up the suspense.

“Yes. Sure. I’ll be there, Mr Wright. Oh, my friend… yes, the psychiatrist.” Silence. “Yes, of course I’ll ask her. I don’t think it’ll be a problem, if you’re sure the client will be OK with it.” He listened again and then laughed. “See you in half an hour. And thanks!”

“Was that your boss?”

“Yes. Percy Wright. Of the Wrights of Virginia. He doesn’t do much in the firm anymore, only picks up some case he’s interested in, occasionally, but he leaves all the groundwork to other lawyers and he just pokes his nose wherever he fancies. For some reason he’s quite intrigued by this case.”

“I guess he said I could go. But what did he say that made you laugh?”

“Oh, when I mentioned that I thought you’d be happy to come, of course if the client was OK with it, he said the client would be OK with whatever we told him. That he knew we were his best chance and he’d have to earn it. And he’d be grateful.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry for assuming you’d want to come…”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it. Now, I’m not sure if I’m more interested in the case or in your boss and the firm.”

“Well, Mr Wright always says that there might be some intrinsic quality attached to good and evil, but the justice system is a completely arbitrary set of rules and which side we are in is at best an accident and at worst just pure bad luck. So perhaps there isn’t much difference.”

Mary wondered if her friend believed what he’d just said or it was a philosophical position. The Phil she knew had always been very convinced of what was wrong and what was right. Jokes apart, she was slightly worried.

They left the apartment and hailed a taxi.

The offices of the firm where Phil worked (Wright and Partners, Attorneys at Law) overlooked Central Park. They occupied a whole storey in a slick commercial building, all glass and shiny surfaces. It was slightly cloudy but Mary imagined that on a sunny day it must have glistened and glowed like a diamond.

While they were in the lobby, waiting for the elevator, Mary said, “How peculiar! I would have thought that somebody like your boss would have an office in an old building, full of the weight of history and following tradition. But no. It couldn’t be a more modern and neutral place if he’d designed it intentionally.”

“I think that he wants to make sure everything is impersonal and can be replaced. Apart from himself, of course. And the same goes for the firm’s name.”

“Don’t the partners query the fact that their names are not on top of the door, so to speak?” Mary asked Phil.

He turned to look at her with a lopsided smile. “Like Mr Wright said about the client, they are OK with whatever he says. And they’re grateful. In my opinion it all boils down to his insistence on not leaving the slightest option open for anybody else to make a claim. The partners might come and go, but there’s only one Mr Wright.”

They reached the top floor of the building and stepped out. As soon as they crossed the massive glass doors, a young thin man who had been pacing up and down, rushed towards them. “Oh, you’re here, Phil. Mr Wright didn’t want to make the client wait too long. You know he likes to strike when the iron is hot, as he says.”

“We came as soon as we could. Traffic was quite heavy. This is my friend, Mary Miller. She’s a psychiatrist. We met at college. This is Ryan Spencer. One of the lawyers here. And aspiring partner.”

Ryan wore black thick-rimmed glasses that made him look child-like, and a beautifully cut suit that looked loose on him. Not as if it was the wrong size, but as if he’d lost weight. He didn’t look sickly, though, only anxious.

“Some days I’d be quite happy if I was just left to do my work in peace, but that’s very unlikely. Pleasure to meet you.”

He extended his arm and bowed slightly as he shook her hand. “And now, let’s go in. Mr Wright said that he didn’t want to formally introduce you, Mary, can I call you Mary?, at least not for the time being. He just wants the client, Mr Fenton, to think that you’re part of the team. No details.”

She nodded. She wasn’t expecting any long term involvement and that would make life easier. No need to overcomplicate matters. Also, people’s reactions on being told that she was a psychiatrist had always been a mystery to her. Some people would take the opportunity to try and get an impromptu consultation, right there and then. Others would retreat, as if they feared that she’d discover their most intimate thoughts and secrets only by looking at them. But Mary had no superpowers, and although at times she might have her suspicions and be able to come up with an educated guess as to what people were thinking, especially people she knew, unless the person talked to her, it was an almost impossible task. There were also the people who treated it as if it were a joke, or a funny anecdote, and asked her if she was going to ‘analyse’ them. Surely if someone asked her that, there would be little need for analysis. And she’d never been an expert in psychoanalysis. Or keen on the idea.

The three entered what looked like a meeting room, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. There was a middle aged woman, dressed in a blue suit, sitting with a laptop in front of her, in the farthest corner from the door. There was a very attractive young girl, blonde, with honey-coloured eyes and wearing a polka dot dress, sitting close to the door. She had a small notebook and a pen and seemed poised to not miss a single word. Next to her was a man, older than Phil and Ryan, probably early forties, impeccably dressed in a navy blue suit, whose greying hair was a bit longer than the standard of the business seemed to impose. Perhaps he had a streak of rebellion in him. Sitting at the centre of the oval-shaped table, was Mr Wright. Although Mary had never met him, once she saw the man sitting there, she had no doubt.

Mr Percy Wright’s appearance was rather peculiar. He was dressed as if he was in the country house he surely had, in tweed, wearing a jacket with brown elbow patches, and his face, with a protruding jaw and a broken nose, seemed more appropriate for a price fighter than for a top layer. On closer look, his green eyes were inquisitive and exuded authority, and his hands were perfectly manicured. Mary wasn’t sure if the man was a genuine puzzle or he had put a lot of thought into wrong-footing his opponents and collaborators alike. Phil’s boss turned towards the door when they entered and nodded curtly. Phil, his hand behind his back, gestured for her to follow him.

When they sat, on the same side as Mr Wright, she was finally able to see ‘the client’. He looked younger than she had imagined, mid-thirties, and was the only one dressed casually, in jeans and a black T-shirt, that she wondered if it was his uniform perhaps, like some very successful people were said to do (always wear similar clothes to be more productive and avoid getting bogged down making inconsequential choices). His eyes were small, so much so that Mary couldn’t see them well enough to decide what colour they were. Nothing too striking. He was slim, but his hands looked skeletal, and she hoped they would not be expected to shake hands with him. The thought that she might feel the bones made her cringe.

“Are we all here, then?” asked Mr Wright. They all nodded. He stared around the table, to make sure he had everybody’s attention, and nodded at his secretary. “Good. We can start, then. For those of you who haven’t met him yet, this is Oliver Fenton, the famous author. Steve, give us the main details of the case.”

Steve, the older man of undefinable age, started talking. “Mr Fenton is accused of aggravated assault, although it could become attempted murder —it depends on the DA and how things evolve—, on the person of a Miles Green. Mr Fenton describes what amounts to serious harassment on the part of Mr Green, who had been pestering his agent, and later him personally, sending letters, making phone calls, and in general making a nuisance of himself, for months. On the day of the incident, Friday the 23rd of April, as Mr Fenton was on his way out of his apartment building in 5th Avenue, Mr Green appeared from behind the reception desk, and attacked Mr Fenton, threatening him and trying to choke him. Mr Fenton managed to overcome his attacker and restrain him onto the floor. As he resisted and tried to attack him again, Mr Fenton hit him on the head with a heavy brass lamp. Very shortly after, it seems, a couple who also lived there arrived, stopped Mr Fenton and called an ambulance and the police. Mr Green was already unconscious then. He hasn’t recovered since and remains in hospital in intensive care.”

That had been around six weeks ago.

“What did you mean when you said that the couple ‘stopped’ Mr Fenton?” Phil asked.

“He was still hitting him with the lamp when the neighbours walked in.”

“Do we have any pictures of the victim?” Phil asked, again.

Steve looked at Mr Wright, who nodded, and Steve passed a folder to Phil. He looked at the contents for a few seconds and then passed it to Mary. She thought she shouldn’t look at them, but realised it would seem weird to the client, and quickly looked over the pictures. She doubted she’d ever be able to recognise Mr Green based on those pictures. His face was so swollen and bruised that it was difficult to make out the slits of the eyes. The bridge of his nose was flattened out, and it looked as if both cheekbones were fractured. The next picture showed a ragged hole in the back of the head, a few inches from the nape of the neck. The impact had been so hard that the skull had caved in.

She passed the file to Ryan, who shook his head, indicating that he’d already seen the contents, and stood up, taking the file back to Steve.

“Any word from Mr Green’s doctors?” Mr Wright asked.

Steve cleared his throat and said, “They have no idea if he’ll make it. They had hoped that with steroids the swelling of the brain would go down and things might improve, but so far that’s not the case. His family have asked that they do some further tests. They seem determined to pull the plug if they can find no evidence of brainwaves.”

As Mary was about to say something, Phil grabbed her arm tightly and she kept quiet. He asked, “What family are we talking about?”

Steve sighed.

“He was, is, I mean, married and they have twins, a boy and a girl, 18 months old. They were separated, and had not lived together for six months prior to the incident.”

“He blames me for the separation. The victim, I mean.” Oliver Fenton had spoken. Although the volume was low, there was steel in his voice and his words resonated around the room. No remorse, no sadness.

They were all looking at the client. Rather than being intimidated by having all eyes on him, Mary thought he seemed to puff up and grow taller, as if he enjoyed public attention.

“Yes, he kept following me everywhere, writing, phoning, turning up at events, insisting that I’d taken everything from him and I was a criminal.”

“How?” Phil asked. “Did you know him? Did you have an affair with his wife? Was that the reason for the separation?”

Mr Fenton shook his head. Mary noticed how his neck was reddening. “I’ve never met the woman. Or him before all this. He was mad. Who knows why somebody as crazy as him does anything?”

“Even when people are ‘mad’, they usually do things for a reason, although perhaps it’s a reason that only fits in with their delusional view of the world. Do you have any idea about what he thought you had done to destroy his life?” Mary asked ignoring Phil’s kick under the table.

“He insists that I’ve written about him in my book. He told everybody that he was the person my main character, David Collins, was based on, and he kept insisting that due to that people were pestering him. It seems that the guy who had abused him had turned up, convinced that he had sold the story, and had threatened his family, and Green had been the victim of all kinds of humiliations.”

“Was it true?” Phil asked, looking at me intently, before turning to the client.

“No, of course not! Yes, I’ve based the book on the story of a person I know, but I’d never met that Miles Green guy before. And I’ve changed the details. Nobody would be able to recognise the individual by just reading my novel. I made sure of that.”

Mr Wright cleared his throat, noisily. It seemed his time to talk had come. He leaned forward and looked at the client intently. Mr Fenton’s face grew paler, but he returned the look.

“So, Mr Fenton… You’re telling us that Mr Green was making a nuisance of himself and following you everywhere, accusing you of all kinds of things and threatening you. Didn’t you think of going to the police?”

“Of course I did! You can ask my agent, Mike Spinner. I called them and we even went to the station to make a statement. They agreed to give him a warning but said that unless he actually tried to do something violent, there wasn’t much they could do. They suggested that perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to reveal who the real person behind the character in the novel was. That way he’d leave me alone and move on to something else. Can you imagine?! Reveal my sources!” Two red marks had appeared on his cheeks and seemed to be spreading and his eyes were bulging with anger. Mary saw now that they were grey.

“Well, you’re not a journalist…” Ryan said.

Mr Fenton jumped from his chair, but Mr Wright raised his hand and waved at him, getting him to sit down again.

“Don’t get excited, Mr Fenton. I guess what Mr Spencer, our young friend here, meant, was that you’re not sworn to secrecy and it’s not a professional obligation. Although I understand your wish to protect your sources. But, I wonder if you could enlighten us and give us some background, as I suspect not everybody here will have read your story, no matter how popular. We tend to have our heads buried in other types of books and papers, so you’ll have to forgive us for our ignorance. If you could be so good as to tell us, what your novel is about, when it came out, etc. We don’t need too many details, but just enough to help us understand the circumstances of the affair.”

Mr Fenton kept looking sideways at Ryan while he talked. “My novel, The Darkest Night, is the story of David Collins, a man who is brought up in a Catholic family, subjected to sexual abuse by one of the priests at the religious school where he studies, and later by a male neighbour, who is also a friend of his father. When he tells his family, they do not believe him, and he ends up on the streets when he is only fifteen. His life is very difficult. He lives on the streets for a while, and survives as best he can until he is literally pushed into an Army recruitment office and decides it must be fate and enlists. And life changes completely for him. He fights for this country and becomes an upstanding citizen.”

“I see. And you say it’s based on a true story,” Mr Wright added, opening the file and seemingly checking something.

“Yes.” The writer’s eyes were fixed on the file.

“At this moment in time we’re not going to ask you to give us the name of that person, although let me make it perfectly clear that it might become necessary that we know, later on, and that here we are obliged, by professional code, to keep the secret, so you don’t need to be worried about that. But in the meantime, if you could tell us how you came across the story, unless the protagonist is based on somebody you’ve always known.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. It’s quite simple, really. I volunteered, years back, and manned a telephone helpline for people thinking of committing suicide, or with mental health problems in general. A young guy phoned me and told me his story. This was a few days before he enlisted and he had hit rock bottom. We chatted for quite a while and he agreed to phone me again in a few days. When he phoned me again, he had enlisted and was ready to go into training. He kept in touch when he could and even phoned me when he got posted to Iraq. When he came back, we arranged to meet and by then I had decided his story should be told, although in novel form. When I suggested it, he agreed, on the understanding that he would read it and I’d make changes to protect his privacy and hide his identity. And that’s what we did.” He only raised his eyes to look at Mr Wright when he finished talking. To Mary’s ears it sounded rehearsed, but then he’d probably been asked the same question quite a few times.

Mr Wright looked around, as if inviting further questions. Phil didn’t hesitate, “Are you still in touch?”

“With the original David, you mean? Once the novel came out and it started to attract so much attention we decided it would be best not to be in contact, to prevent anybody from making the connection between him and the book.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t come forward when he heard you were in trouble,” Ryan said.

Judging by the look Mr Fenton shot at him, Ryan would not be on his Christmas-card list.

“He’s not that easy to reach.”

Mary was surprised that nobody asked him why. Either the information was already known, or they’d all assumed that somebody else would ask the question and now the moment had passed. Ryan was on the edge of his seat, but even he must have thought he’d attracted enough hostility from the client for one day and gave up.

“If it’s OK, I have to meet my agent for lunch. We had organised a book signing tour, and with all this we’ll have to reschedule.”

“Yes, of course. Maggie, my PA, will arrange a few appointments, starting on Monday morning. We have plenty of information to work through. And you haven’t met Mr Mayfield, yet. Although he’s the youngest of my partners in the firm, he has plenty of experience in similar cases.”

Mary looked at Phil and he shook his head slightly, as if to indicate that they’d talk about it later.

The author stood up and nodded briefly. The woman who had been typing in the corner accompanied him out of the meeting room. Once the door closed behind them, Mr Wright cleared his throat. “Phil, will you introduce your friend to all of us, please?”

Phil blushed and stood up. Mary couldn’t help thinking about a headmaster telling off a young kid.

“This is Dr Mary Miller. She’s a psychiatrist. She also writes, although she has not published anything yet.”

Everybody nodded in her direction. Then Phil proceeded to introduce everybody. Steve Burman smiled pleasantly. The young girl, Tania, no surname used in the introduction, was there on a placement from college.

“My Dad works in accounts and thought it would make for an interesting project. And Mr Wright kindly agreed.”

“And Maggie, my PA, who’s gone out with Mr Fenton. So, first impressions?”

“It’s a good story,” Steve said.

“Do you really think so?” Ryan asked. “There are lots of holes in it.”

“Nearly as big as the one in the victim’s skull,” Phil added. “I don’t know how big or heavy that lamp was, but to make a hole that size, he must have hit him with something very heavy and many times. Once the attacker was unconscious, why carry on?”

“Perhaps we’ll have to look at his mental state and mental health. Maybe the harassment became a bit too much for him and he lost control,” Steve said.

“Could we convince you, dear Dr, to consult on the matter? You could do an assessment of Mr Fenton’s mental state and see if there’s anything else we need to do. I mean any tests, imaging, or any other expert we could call that might be of use when putting together his defence,” Mr Wright said, looking intently at Mary.

“He didn’t strike me as particularly disturbed, but the current circumstances aren’t the best to make a judgement. As long as I can fit it in during my visit, I’d be happy to be of assistance.”

Mr Wright smiled at Mary and then stood up, nodding at everybody and officially ending the meeting.

 

As I told you last week, to prepare for the launch, Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99. Here I leave you a reminder and some links:

 

Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry

‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories in the psychological thriller genre with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.

In ‘Cannon Fodder’ Mary has to assess Cain, an African-American man accused of inciting a religious riot when he claimed that he could hear God and God was black. He might not be mad, but Mary is sure he’s hiding something.

‘Teamwork’ sees Mary hoodwinked into offering therapy to Justin, a policeman feeling guilty after his partner and ersatz father was killed on-duty. Before Mary can extricate herself from the case, things get personal.

In ‘Memory’ Mary goes missing after an incident with Phil, who is manic as he hasn’t been taking his medication. When she is found, she has been the victim of a horrific crime, but they soon discover she was luckier than they had realised.

The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO           NOOK            APPLE           SCRIBD        

PAGE FOUNDRY   OYSTER    PAPER

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#FREEprequel ‘Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings’ Psychological Thriller. 1st chapter

Hi all:

I promised I’d be sharing the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry my psychological thriller book, that collects three stories. Mary Miller, the psychiatrist and writer protagonist of the stories gets in all kinds of adventures in the book.

Here, we see how and when she became involved for the first time in a case. Ah, and the case is about a writer who is being stalked and harassed by a fan/madman, or is it?

Ah, I have a cover now! So consider this a cover reveal too!

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

And here it is:

1.     The Crisis

“It was terrible! I’m telling you, Phil. Disgraceful! The guy was pouring out his heart and soul and I wasn’t even listening to him! What kind of a psychiatrist am I? Where is my empathy? Caring profession! Ha! Couldn’t care less profession, maybe!”

“Come on, Mary. Don’t beat yourself up. It was the early hours of the morning and you had been working all day.” Phil seized the opportunity when Mary had to stop to breathe, to try and get his point across. He wasn’t a lawyer and the voice of reason for nothing. His friend Mary, usually level-headed and calm, was in a bit of a state. Yes, she had a pretty stressful job, working as a trainee psychiatrist in a busy hospital. But she was quite senior now and not usually given to catastrophizing.

“That wasn’t his fault. Damn, the guy was talking about his life, his girlfriend had left him and he was contemplating suicide and I was… away with the fairies. I haven’t the slightest idea of what he told me.”

“Nothing happened. You gave him good advice and evidently must have heard enough. You probably only switched off for a few seconds. And you gave him what he needed.”

“How so? He wanted somebody to listen. And I wasn’t listening!”

Phil realised that he was likely to inflame the situation, no matter what he said, and decided to allow Mary to vent. She’d run out of steam at some point. Hopefully.

She stopped talking after a few more minutes of lamenting her lack of empathy. Phil decided it might be safe to intervene.

“Why don’t you—”

“It’s a con game,” she interrupted him. “Do you remember that movie, House of Games?”

“The one about the female psychiatrist and the con men? David Mamet’s, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, precisely that one. I’m coming to the conclusion that they had a point. We just put on a performance and as long as we are credible, good actors, and have the appropriate props and jargon, we get away with it.”

“From that point of view, I guess all professions are a con game,” Phil said.

“Perhaps. But most of them don’t take the moral high ground or go around telling people what to do.”

Phil was about to contradict Mary, but realised that she seemed to be calming down and it would be better to try a different tack.

“You must be due a vacation, Mary. Why don’t you come and spend some time with me? You could always accompany me to work. Get a bit of distance and see how it feels to be an insider somewhere else.”

“Won’t your law firm have something to say about that? Client privilege and all that?”

“I’ll vouch for you. And I’m sure I could convince them that having you ‘consulting’ with us could be useful. To give us a different perspective. Especially if you aren’t going to charge them for the service.”

“I’m starting to wonder if you have a case you wanted my opinion on, and my call has just been the perfect excuse,” Mary said, in a more upbeat tone.

“You have a very suspicious mind, dear Mary.”

“When a lawyer says that, it’s time to worry.”

Phil was used to people making jokes and saying not very complimentary things about lawyers. He did some pro-bono work, but had no illusions that he would change society with his profession. But it was interesting nonetheless.

“So, what do you say? Are you coming to spend some time with me?”

Mary was quiet for a few seconds. She finally said:

“Won’t I be in the way?”

“In the way of what?”

“You’re single, well, divorced, and a bloke. Don’t you have a woman in your life at the moment?”

“You know I’m still recovering from my divorce.” Phil made an effort to sound as sincere as possible. Mary had a very finely tuned bullshit detector.

“Ha! That’s funny! I haven’t seen you cry or be sad at all about your failed marriage. I’ve never truly understood why you married Iris.”

“Well… She was hot.”

“Sure, but otherwise… Not up to your intellectual standards, Phil. And you sent her to your mother’s as soon as you went back to Law School, and I’d say you might have seen her a handful of times in the three months your marriage lasted, at a push. I’m sure you saw me more often than your saw her.”

“Well, if you had played your cards right, perhaps you could have become my wife instead.” Phil didn’t know where that had come from. He hoped Mary would take it as a joke. Because that was what it was, right?

“You would run a mile if you thought I had any design on you.”

Phil burst out laughing. “Probably much farther than a mile. Don’t get me wrong. I do love you, but I think we’d probably drive each other insane if we were a couple. We know each other far too well.”

Phil realised he wholeheartedly believed what he’d just said, although he’d never formulated the thought before. Could he be truly open and honest in a relationship? Perhaps that had been the problem all along. He didn’t let anybody get close enough, at least not the people he ended up in a relationship with.

“So you think having secrets from each other is the recipe to a successful relationship. Based on that premise, I’m not surprised you’re still on your own. And yes, no need to remind me I’m also on my own. Relationships are not my priority at the moment. Trying to decide what I want to do with my life is. I don’t need added complications. And of course, I suspect lots of men would think that I’m not hot enough to make good partner material.”

“You talk yourself out of it before you even try, dear Mary. But I’m sure we can chat about that in more detail when you’re here. When will that be?”

“I’ll have to check with my bosses, HR and the other doctors, but there aren’t school holidays coming up or any such things, so we might be lucky. I’ll speak to everybody tomorrow, if I can, and I’ll let you know.”

“Good. I hope it’s soon.”

“Why?” She sounded suspicious.

“Because the firm has just taken up the defence of a writer, and I know you love reading and writing.”

“Oh, I see. Yes, you’re right. And perhaps taking up writing again would be helpful. What’s the case about?”

“You’ll probably hear about it soon enough, but I can’t give you any inside information until I know the firm is OK about your involvement, and you’re actually coming. That would be careless, not to say unethical, on my behalf.”

“Of course. Let’s talk tomorrow, then.”

“Speak to you tomorrow.”

“Phil?”

“What?”

“You’ve done a good job.”

“What are you talking about?”

“First of putting up with the moaning, but more than that, of setting up the hook. I’m intrigued about the case, now.”

He punched the air in silent celebration. ‘Yes!’ he thought. “Just something that suddenly came to mind while we talked.”

“Yes, sure… Night.”

“Good night.”

Mary phoned Phil back the next day and confirmed she would be going to spend a couple of weeks with him. “I’ll arrive on Saturday morning, if that’s OK. But, honestly, let me know if I’m going to be in the way. I can always book myself in somewhere. At a hotel or something.”

“No, no, that will be unnecessary. You can stay here. Ah, and by the way, I did have an informal chat with my boss, and he was interested in your perspective and opinion on the case, both from the psychiatric point of view and from an insider’s.”

“An insider’s?”

“I told Mr Wright that you also write. He was so interested that he even offered to let you stay in one of the firm’s apartments. They have several for clients from out of the city and for newly arrived lawyers. I told him we’d made other arrangements but he was serious.”

“And why is he interested in my psychiatric opinion?”

“We’ll talk about that when you’re here. I’ll be eagerly waiting for you on Saturday morning.”

Thanks so much to all for reading, thanks to Ernesto for the great cover, and well, like, share, comment… and if you want to click… I’ll leave you a link to Escaping Psychiatry, that by the way, it’s only $0.99 at the moment!

Escaping Psychiatry
Escaping Psychiatry

Escaping Psychiatry in Amazon. For many other links, follow the Books page at the top!

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