Dr. Bryce Davison is an adjunct professor of psychology, and a consultant at a pysch care clinic, who specializes in anxiety disorder treatment. Recently separated from his wife, Dr. Davison is socially isolated and sorting through mental health issues of his own. When he starts to receive threatening messages – by email, in the privacy of his home, his office, and his car – his anxieties deepen. He begins to suspect just about everyone in his circle, including his loved ones. Who is sending the messages, and what do they want?
At the start of the novel, Dr. Davison finds his bedroom pillow doused in perfume, and then receives an email that reads, “Closer than you think”. These two incidents are quickly followed by a creepy phone call to his work; the caller whispering, “Closer than you think”. Later he finds a pair of underwear tied to the door handle of his car with the word “closer”. The messages continue to escalate, along with the protagonist’s anxieties and paranoia. The doctor’s angst over each new incident is meant to build drama and intensity. Somehow though, it came off as rather campy, far-fetched, and melodramatic. Ultimately, I think this was due to the pacing of the novel.
The novel wastes no time in jumping into the plot’s action. The action begins four pages into the story when Dr. Davison finds the perfume on his bedroom pillow. Two pages later, he receives the first menacing email. Another several pages and he gets the phone call at work. The action continues to transpire quickly, yet it fails to build any sense of urgency. Even though the threatening messages pile up quickly, the rest of the book drags with dull dialogue between characters and inner monologue from the main character. Fast action coupled with long drawn-out prose created this weird, staccato pacing that detracted from the story.
You know the kind of people that tell stories with too much extraneous detail? The kind that might say, “The craziest thing happened at work today!”, and then launch into a tedious description of their morning commute instead of getting to the point? This book had a lot of extraneous detail, and I found myself wanting the author to cut to the chase. The author is quite obviously a psyschologist in real life. He spent a lot of time going over psychological diagnostic techniques, or descriptions of the best way for psych care staff to handle patients in distress. Readers with an interest in psychological theory and diagnostics, might find this element of the book interesting, such as:
“Projective tests are designed to give little clue or structure as to how the patient should respond. Often, this allows the person to react in a manner that their reveals* inner dynamics, helping us understand him or her from a psychological perspective. Such a test tends not to be as threatening as one asking direct questions, and won’t raise someone’s defenses as a result”.
Granted, that’s a little interesting. It is also out of place in a work of fiction. A bit like reading a Psych 101 textbook, or an employee procedural handbook for a mental health clinic, rather than a thriller.
On the positive side of things, the ending was mostly a surprise to me. I did not predict how all the threads of the story would tie together. So, the author nailed the most important aspect of mysteries and thrillers – unpredictability.
*That typo was in the text of the review copy I received from the publisher. Because I was directly quoting the text, I did not correct the error above . The sentence should read: “Often, this allows the person to react in a manner that reveals their inner dynamics..”.