cover image The Mask of Sanity

The Mask of Sanity

Jacob M. Appel. Permanent, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-57962-495-8

Dr. Jeremy Balint, “the youngest head of any medical division at Laurendale-Methodist Hospital,” discovers his inner psychopath in Appel’s deeply unsettling novel set in what might be upstate New York. When Balint discovers that his wife, Amanda, is having an affair with his fellow doctor Warren Sugarman, he feels an overwhelming desire to murder Sugarman, and fulfilling this need soon consumes his otherwise normal life. As the wronged husband, Balint realizes that he’d be the logical suspect no matter how Sugarman dies—unless Sugarman appears to be the random target of a serial killer. So Balint sets out methodically murdering random strangers and tying lengths of green ribbon around their necks. Now known as the Emerald Choker, he takes no pleasure in the killings, but neither do they bother him. Each, after all, brings him closer to his goal of eliminating the detested Sugarman. Through matter-of-fact, nonjudgmental prose, Appel (The Biology of Luck) shows us the world through Balint’s eyes and leaves the reader with a horrifying understanding of his actions. (Mar.)