Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mask of Sanity Review

The Mask of Sanity
By: Jacob M. Appel

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. In contrast to fictional predecessors like Dostoyevesky's Raskolnikov and Camus's Mersault, 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.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don't even know where to start with this book. I just finished reading it a minute ago, and I usually give myself some time to collect my thoughts before I write my review, but honestly, this book disturbed me so much that I don't want more time to think about it. Thinking about it gives me the creeps. It's not an overtly scary read, but the main character Dr. Balint is so disturbing that I literally got chills from this book. Which is also why it took me so long (3 days) to read it. I took many breaks during this one to absorb my family, life and surroundings before delving back into Balint's sociopathic mind. I've read a lot of books, and watched a lot of serial killer documentaries, but none of them have ever affected me quite the way this novel did. The writing of this book was absolutely amazing. The story had such a realistic quality to it, and the mind of the serial killer was characterized so well that I had to remind myself a few times that this book was fiction.

Dr. Balint's character was truly frightening. On the outside he was perfect; a doctor, a husband, a father. He outwardly displayed emotions of sympathy and empathy that he didn't actually feel. He did it completely nonchalantly, as though he had been playing the role of 'caring human being' his whole life, for the sake of those around him. At the same time he did feel true emotions when it came to those he loved. He was capable of genuinely loving his children and his parents. He wanted to protect his children and saw his actions of murder as a way of ensuring their safe and happy futures. He was genuinely concerned for the welfare of his parents and showed them affection. However, when he came face to face with the loved ones of those he had killed and looked their grief in the face he felt nothing. He took people away from their families, and had absolutely zero remorse for the people they had left behind; and in some cases even talked himself into believing he had done his victims and their families a favour by ending their lives! Bizarrely enough, I found myself actually caring about Balint and hoping that his spree would end and he would just slip quietly back into his life as though nothing had happened. I wanted him to go on with no repercussions, while at the same time completely despising his actions. The author had somehow found a way to write Balint's character in a way as to make the readers care for him. Seriously, I cannot say enough about the writing of this book.

The overall flow of the book was pretty good, it felt like there was always something happening. The serial killer plot line went hand in hand with the marital issues Balint was experiencing but at the same time they were kept separate. Funnily enough by the end of the book I actually disliked Balint's wife far more than Balint himself. The author did a great job at detailing the married life that Balint and his wife shared and what sort of  social experiences they had together. The pages in which Balint was planning his next murder and victim did get a little dry at the end, but only because his thought processes were all the same, understandably the gist of it was 'kill this person and don't get caught'. And because he was so meticulous in the planning, the descriptions of it tended to be a bit drawn out.

This book brings to light the seriousness of mental health issues and offers a very clear picture of what the mind of a sociopath looks like. It is absolutely terrifying how well Balint can hide his true personality whilst maintaining a full and meaningful life both with his family and professionally, and no one's the wiser for it. This is definitely a book that, though I may never read again, I am not likely to forget any detail of it anytime soon.

Final Rating:
Probability of Rereading:

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

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