It’s been a while between books set in psychiatric facilities. There seemed to be a spate of them for a while. Books about current or former ‘institutions’ featuring some of horrific practices of the past and those remaining today (well, at least in the more sordid settings popping up in crime fiction and thrillers).
The Patient by Jasper DeWitt is written as if a first-hand account (via online forum) by a Ivy League graduate who—for various reasons—accepts a posting at an old and obscure mental health facility in Connecticut.
Our lead Parker uses initials and pseudonyms to talk about a patient and colleagues he comes across at the facility. He’s arrogant and he’s open about—what he believes to be—his superior intelligence and insight. It could make him unlikeable but he also acknowledges this arrogance and is honest in revealing his misjudgements and failings.
by Jasper DeWitt
Published by HarperCollins - AU
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
In a series of online posts, Parker H, an ambitious young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England and his attempt to cure the facility's most difficult, profoundly dangerous case.
Originally admitted to the hospital as a child, the man has no known diagnosis. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.
Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But things quickly spiral out of control.
Many of the other books I’ve read set in mental health facilities focus more on the practices within. Here there’s a bit of that as Parker becomes intrigued by ‘Joe’ and tries to understand what his predecessors have attempted (treatment-wise) in the past.
DeWitt gives us a fair bit of context here, particularly in relation to the hospital’s (past and present) staff. But the book is really about Joe and Parker. Well, to be exact it’s about Parker’s response to Joe and the many MANY unanswered questions about the boy admitted and man who remains.
He scours information about past treatment and anecdotal experiences of other therapists and staff at the hospital and even tries to look into Joe’s background to better understand why he’s there and—more importantly—perceived to be untreatable.
There something Stephen King-esque reflected in this intelligent read by DeWitt and I notice he’s referenced in some of the book’s publicity material.
I’m not a fan of the supernatural or unexplained and there’s a sense here that there could be something else at play. Or perhaps not. DeWitt leaves some of this up to we readers.
The Patient by Jasper DeWitt will be published in Australia by Harper Collins and now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.