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by John Katzenbach

Ballantine Books, January 2002
ISBN: 0345426266

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

A race against time ensues as an anonymous letter writer initiates a deadly game designed to punish psychoanalyst Dr. Frederick Starks for perceived past wrongs inflicted. A threatening letter lays out the tormentor's morbid plan and the ground rules. Within two weeks, Dr. Starks must guess the identity of the letter writer or commit suicide. Otherwise, Dr. Starks's loved ones will begin to die, one by one.

As I admitted in a previous review of HART'S WAR by Katzenbach, I'm not always a fan of his style of writing. I think he tells a good story, I just don't always like the way he tells it. However, I did enjoy the characterizations and way he handled the complex story in HART'S WAR so I went back to THE ANALYST which I had put aside, unread.

I still had trouble with the beginning third or so of the book but I persevered because I was intrigued by the premise of the story. A well-respected psychoanalyst is trapped into playing a vicious game of cat-and-mouse by someone who claims, anonymously, that the good doctor ruined his life and it is now payback time. There are few options open to the doctor. Figure out who the disgruntled person is and why he wants to ruin the doctor's life, within a designated length of time, or pay one of two very high prices. Choice one is to kill himself. Choice two is to watch as his friends and relatives are destroyed, one by one.

I think there are two aspects of this story line that will keep the readers turning pages as fast as they can read them. First, is the idea that our past may come back to haunt us when we least expect it. How many of us have unpleasant incidents from our past that we have long forgotten, but haven't been forgotten or forgiven by those we inflicted the pain on? And secondly, in our current times, with technology being what it is, it is frighteningly easy to destroy someone "on paper." Despite safeguards, computers and those who know how to use them are but a few keystrokes away from data that we may hope they never access. We are living by the numbers now. Social security, driver's licenses, bank accounts, credit cards, IRS, FBI... Computers can track our lives. Could someone try to destroy one of us in the same way Dr. Starks's tormentor attacked? And if someone did, what would we do?

THE ANALYST by John Katzenbach is a thriller that will keep fans talking about it for some time to come. It is available from Ballantine Books in hardcover. E-book editions for Microsoft Reader and Adobe Reader are also available.

Phoenix Pictures has secured the movie rights. The film is scheduled to be produced by Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

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