Need

Lawrence David, Author Random House (NY) $21 (363p) ISBN 978-0-679-43433-7

A vengeful psychiatrist proves the villain in this tale of jealousy, betrayal and revenge that has all the ingredients necessary for a chilling psycho-thriller but that almost self-destructs with a lethargic pace and characters whose angst is often more alienating than intriguing. Joan Dwyer is a chronically depressed divorcee with a suicide plan for nearly every room of her Manhattan apartment--pills for overdosing in the bedroom, Hefty bags for self-asphyxiating in the kitchen. Meanwhile, graphic designer Dennis Perry is unhappily in love with an emotionally distant wife who begrudges him sex and disdains his opinions. As Joan and Dennis begin a predictably tortured affair, neither is aware of the dangerous connection they share--that Dennis's wife, Pam Thompson, is Joan's psychiatrist. When Pam accidentally discovers the liaison, she becomes obsessed with punishing the lovers, and it's her downward spiral from objective therapist to vengeful accuser that spins the book into high gear as she enacts a plan that's both unexpected and sinister. Despite the flaws, then, David ( Family Values ) still offers a provocative look at the potential for abuse of power within the doctor-patient relationship. Author tour. (Aug.)