John Katzenbach envisions one possible future, shortly after the
coming millenium, where criminal violence runs rampant, where Americans are
more likely armed than not, where gated communities are taken to an intriguing
extreme and where a serial killer resurfaces after a quarter century
to make mockery of a budding sanctuary for the revised American dream
of a safe haven. State of Mind poses interesting
philosophical questions concerning what constitutes freedom, and it
forces us to take a hard look at just where our nation might be headed
if we continue down the road we're on. This sixth novel by the author
of The Shadow Man and Just Cause proves to
be a quite readable thriller of the serial-killer subgenre.
Jeffrey Clayton teaches abnormal psychology at a university in
New England. He's a respected expert in the field of serial-killer
profiling and has helped various law enforcement agencies put an end
to more than a few killing sprees. A loner who fears that his profession
is in fact an obsession, Jeffrey is approached by a security agent of
the proposed Fifty-First State, where Americans searching out a place
to live in safety from an ultraviolent world can do so -- for a price.
As the proposed Fifty-First State nears a congressional vote to be granted
statehood, the hushed-up disappearances and subsequent murders of several teenage girls there has
got the politicos scrambling for answers. Although Jeffrey is reluctant
to assist in the hunt for the killer, minions of the Fifty-First State
convince him with a horrible possibility: these killings bear a marked
resemblance to murders committed nearly twenty-five years ago, and
the man responsible might be the father Jeffrey has thought dead for
nearly as long.
Jeffrey's sister Susan creates word games for a Miami magazine under
the pseudonym "Mata Hari" and cares for their dying mother in their home
in the swamps of the Upper Florida Keys, the home the small family
escaped to years ago after fleeing an abusive husband and father.
Susan starts receiving cryptic puzzles that reveal a disturbing content
when solved. "I have found you," the first reads. "I have always
been with you," reads the next. The most frightening message is delivered
to Susan via a Miami streetperson: "I want what was stolen from me."
Susan's mother, Diana, begins to suspect that her worst fears have come
to pass, that the man she fled all those years ago did not truly die and
has come to seek vengeance.
Jeffrey reaches the same conclusion as his mother, and, fearing for
their safety, convinces Susan and Diana to join him in the Fifty-First
State. The stakes grow ever higher, and mother, brother and sister must try to unlock the secrets of
the most dangerous man in their lives before he kills again, and before
he can bring to fruition a lifetime's measure of vengeance upon the
family from his past.
State of Mind brings compelling speculation
about America's future together with the chilling, deadly race to know
the mind of an homicidal madman. Fast-paced and gripping, if a wee
didactic at times, this latest novel by John Katzenbach will keep
suspense readers up way past their bedtimes.