The human brain is a complex organ which has provided a source for research for scientists of diverse schools. Physiologists, biochemists, as well as psychiatrists and psychologists have found enough of interest in this part of the human anatomy to carve out many a career. Projection explores the human brain from a psychiatric viewpoint through the eyes of Frank Clevenger, a Boston forensic psychiatrist.
Trevor Lucas, a plastic surgeon, has been sentenced in a murder of two young women. He has been found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a psychiatric hospital. Subsequent to his committal, there have been two more young women murdered in a similar fashion, but the police have dubbed these two deaths “copycat” murders. Clevenger, however, knows that all four murders were committed by the same person, who, obviously, is not Lucas. The person responsible is also violently mentally ill, and Clevenger and another doctor have arranged for treatment for this individual at a private clinic.
Suddenly , Clevenger finds out that Lucas has overpowered the staff in the locked unit of the hospital where he is a patient. Lucas is holding several people hostage, including one pregnant nurse. He alleges that he will free the hostages if Clevenger will come into the locked unit. Clevenger, feeling somewhat responsible for Lucas’ situation in the first place, agrees. If he can truly understand Lucas’ feelings by projecting his own self into Lucas’ life, Clevenger feels that, perhaps, he can save the lives of the hostages.
Projection is a book that has appeal for two types of audiences. Those readers who enjoy psychological thrillers, and those that are not bothered by very explicit, graphic violence. Mr. Ablow does an impressive job detailing some pretty gruesome murders, employing at least the three senses of sight, hearing and smell to communicate the horror of the scene. The inscription of words on someone’s skin with a knife, without the use of any anesthetic is just a small sample of the violence described in the novel. Those readers who prefer to be a little more removed from such descriptions would be well advised to pass this one by.
As a psychological study, author Ablow tries to provide reasons why mentally disturbed individuals act as they do. According to the author, an event or events early in life which causes mental trauma to an individual can cause them to act in an antisocial manner later on in life. Statements such as this are, of course, difficult to prove one way or another, but it does provide some fodder for the introspective reader to think about.
Projection is not so much a mystery as a thriller. The reader is well aware of all the evil acts of the characters, as are at least some of the characters themselves. What provides the interest for the story is the tension that is created by the uncertainty of whether Clevenger can connect mentally with Lucas before Lucas promotes any further bloodshed. While definitely not the book for everyone, or for an evening’s light diversion, Projection will definitely attract a certain readership.