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Book Reviews   |    
Freud’s Revenge

by P. J. Adams; Charleston, South Carolina, P. J. Adams Books, 2011, 306 pages, $14.99

Reviewed by Jeffrey L. Geller, M.D., M.P.H.
Psychiatric Services 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.631207
View Author and Article Information

Dr. Geller, who is the book review editor, is professor of psychiatry and director of public-sector psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.

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The novel Freud’s Revenge is a mystery focusing on a murder at a mental health clinic in Del Mar, California. Written by P. J. Adams, whose biography at all available sources is “a practicing psychotherapist and author working in Southern California,” the book is a whodunit. Therefore, I’ll refrain from revealing too much of the story, but my concerns don’t depend on knowing the plot.

Freud’s Revenge can be a light, engaging read. The poor psychiatry and psychology and gross political incorrectness of the novel may grate so badly on some readers that they will simply toss the book aside after a couple of its short, numerous chapters. Most glaring is Adams’ tendency to refer to every person with a psychiatric disorder by that disorder, such as “Psychotics saw demons on the ceiling,” which is on the first page. And it is not the book’s characters who speak like this, but the narrator. Patients with severe mental illness are referred to as the “extreme patients,” and the Seaside Mental Health Clinic (the site of the action) treats few of them. Perhaps this is because it’s a private clinic.

And here we go again. The individual who can be described as a recidivist, polymorphously perverse pedophile who tunes in to child pornography everywhere he goes is—you guessed it—the psychiatrist. In fact, Ed Michaels, M.D., is the only psychiatrist at the clinic, so the book includes no redeeming members of our profession. But maybe the damage is mitigated in that Adams regularly mixes up psychiatrist and psychologist.

The “Freud” in the title actually has little to do with Sigmund Freud and more to do with name games and juvenile, petty, demeaning, depersonalizing nicknames handed out by—you guessed it—Dr. Michaels. And Dr. Michaels knows no boundaries, hesitating not a whit to have inappropriate relationships with interns in psychology and family therapy.

Those who stick with the mystery to the end will find out that the solution is a fundamental misunderstanding of a psychiatric disorder. You’ll groan. You’ll be annoyed. You may feel compelled to utter, “What a cheap ending.”

Freud’s Revenge gives the lay readership another horribly distorted view of psychiatry. We can all hope that psychotherapist and author Adams does a better job in her next book, which, according to her Web site, will be Jung’s Nightmare. If she does not, the mystery will be a nightmare for more than Jung.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.

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