Mind Games, by William Deverell

Seven stars

Returning to another William Deverell novel early in my 2019 Reading Challenge, I turned to one that has been collecting virtual dust for a while. Deverell’s novels can be hit or miss, depending on the reader’s engagement with the characters and story. In this piece, Dr. Timothy Dare finds himself visiting fellow psychiatrist Dr. Allison Epstein, filled with a number of issues that could use the detached analysis of an established therapist. Dare brings these issues to the therapeutic couch, including an impending hearing on professional conduct, a patient who is likely a serial killer, and Dare’s own relationship struggles. Throughout the novel, Epstein opens each chapter with some session notes and excerpts from the conversation before the narrative switches to Dare recounting, in detail, the happenings that fuel the discussion. The reader can see the ongoing struggles that Dare has with his fiancée and how an attractive patient plays on this, soon pushing him to the brink and turning a spurned seduction of her therapist into Dare having used his power to persuade her into a tryst. At the same time, Dare and Epstein appear to be forging a platonic bond, one that could have troubling fallout the further things spin out of control for the beleaguered Dr. Dare. As the intensity ramps up, the reader is subjected to many troubling revelations in a story whose ending builds in intensity. Deverell does well with this piece, whose mind games are plentiful, for reader and character alike!

I have come to realise that when I begin something by William Deverell, I am never sure where it will take me, or if I will find myself committed to the cause. This novel steers away from legal matters, for the most part, keeping those readers who revel in Deverell’s masterful presentation of Canadian law from becoming too excited. Rather, focus remains with Drs. Dare and Epstein, both sifting through the detritus of the former’s life choices. Dare bears all and shows the writer that his life is anything but smooth sailing, learning much in therapy as he tries to glue the pieces back together. Epstein appears to be the bystander, forced to sit through her patient’s narcissism as he deflects many of his poor life choices. Some of the other characters who grace the pages serve as narrative vessels to push the story along, much needed in this psychological piece that has some coming of age alongside self-discovery. Deverell does well trying to weave a patchwork of ideas and vignettes together to create a cohesive novel, though I do wish it had been one where the courtroom was the primary setting, not a therapist’s office. Still, as with all Deverell books, the name of the game is thinking and piecing it all nicely together.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for your hard work and dedication to the cause. I do enjoy novels that force me to think a little, though the mind games here may have been a bit much so early in the reading year.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons