Published by: Permanent Press
Publication Date: 31st March 2017
On the outside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a pillar of the community: the youngest division chief at his hospital, a model son to his elderly parents, fiercely devoted to his wife and two young daughters. On the inside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a high-functioning sociopath–a man who truly believes himself to stand above the ethical norms of society. As long as life treats him well, Balint has no cause to harm others. When life treats him poorly, he reveals the depths of his cold-blooded depravity.
At a cultural moment when the media bombards us with images of so-called sociopaths who strive for good and criminals redeemed by repentance,The Mask of Sanity offers an antidote to implausible tales of evil gone right. In contrast to fictional predecessors like Dostoyevesky’s Raskolnikov and Camus’ Meursault, Dr. Balint is a man who already has it all –and will do everything in his power, no matter how immoral, to keep what he has.
Jacob emailed me about three weeks ago about a review for his new book. It sounded interesting so I said yes and he sent me a copy of the book. It came from the US and arrived a couple of days ago. I hadn’t planned to read it just yet because I have a pile of books to read and review. Yesterday, after falling over backwards while I was trying to cross a road I was feeling a bit down so I thought I’d read a crime novel. It was on the shelf so I sat down on my garden chair (I had to bring it inside because the computer chair wasn’t comfortable), reclined and got on with reading.
I finished it before bed last night.
The story is told from Dr Balint’s perspective, third person limited. The story is simple really, Jeremy Balint has been married for nine years to Amanda, they have two children and a nice house. He is a successful cardiologist, and she is a librarian. On the way home from work one day he knocks over a daschund and takes it to his colleague Warren Sugarman. He sees Amanda with Warren and starts plotting his murder.
Jeremy Balint doesn’t feel remorse for his actions, Sugarman is in the way of his ‘successful family, perfect marriage’ life so he gets rid of him. That there would be collateral damage is unimportant to him. The deaths are a necessary part of his plan, so people die.
At the same time he’s making his way through the ranks at his hospital, first as department head and then head of the medical division of the hospital. He’s running free clinics provided by his Rabbi and synagogue in poorer areas of the city, and is considered the ‘ethics guy’ at the hospital.
Jeremy Balint is an interesting character, but the reader only sees part of him. He’s very unreliable, bits of his history creep in and some events are questionable. Did he murder Mr Navare or did the old man die from the accident as everyone thought? Did he murder Abby or did she fall in the pool as everyone thought? How many deaths is he actually responsible for?
The plot was good, and the ending was a surprise, it did make me wonder if there is another book to follow. While I enjoyed it, there was something not quite…right. I’m not sure, maybe the authorial voice? It was reasonably easy to read but it sometimes felt like the flow was off. If that was the purpose then great, but I don’t think it was. Oh, I know what it was, the lack of depth! But then the character is a person without much depth, he’s all surface. The cover image is creepy, but it works in the context, the shadow man who isn’t really there.
It wasn’t as satisfying as some crime novels I’ve read, but it was realistic.