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Book Reviews   |    
Reviewed by Alan D. Schmetzer, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2004; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.55.12.1456
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by Stephen White; New York, Delacort Press, 2004, 388 pages, $24.95

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Blinded is the 12th in a series of fictional works by Stephen White, who is by training a clinical psychologist. It falls into the general category of psychological thriller, but some might call it a murder mystery.

The book's main character, Alan Gregory, is a clinical psychologist in private practice. The primary story line begins during a session with a former marital therapy patient who has just requested an individual session after a lengthy absence from treatment. She announces that her husband may be a murderer—and not just a common, everyday murderer, but a sexually motivated serial killer of women. She wants the psychologist to get the police involved. Dr. Gregory is primarily assisted in unraveling the resultant psychological and legal knots by another main character, Sam Purdy, who is a close friend and a police detective.

Multiple subplots are mingled with the main story. Some of these revolve around the multiple sclerosis that afflicts Dr. Gregory's wife, the cardiac problems that Mr. Purdy develops, and the emotional underpinnings of their two very different marital relationships. There are also subplots concerning the troubles and treatment of some of the other patients in Dr. Gregory's practice. As might happen in real life, Dr. Gregory asks a colleague for consultation along the way.

The story paints a believable picture of a clinical psychology practice and also deals with some tricky confidentiality and involuntary treatment issues. These medico-legal issues are sometimes mentioned only in passing, but the everyday complexity of trying to maintain confidentiality while treating and protecting patients is certainly communicated. Some chapters are written from the perspective of one character and some from that of another, and from time to time the author takes us back in time to fill in parts of the tale that we've missed. The book contains just the right balance of humor to keep the situation from being quite as disturbing as it otherwise might be.

Overall this is a well-written, entertaining novel, and I found it hard to put down. Fortunately it's also a pretty fast read. The main characters are likable for their human qualities and are well delineated psychologically, as one might expect from an author who has a background in the field. The dialogue is believable and flows well. There is plenty of action mixed with the more philosophical discussions. Parts of the plot are somewhat unlikely, but then that's what makes it a story rather than a "true crime" adventure. Any mental health professional could enjoy this book as a diversion from the more mundane cases usually seen day to day in the average practice. Having read Blinded, I'm pretty sure I'll also read some or all of the earlier books in this series.

Dr. Schmetzer is professor of psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.




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