~ About the Author ~
John Katzenbach is American and has (I believe) written 14 novels.
Perhaps his best-known novel is Hart's War, which was made in to a motion picture starring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell. Just Cause was another that was made in to a motion picture.
John Katzenbach was a court reporter for the Miami Herald, and also for the Miami News, but he now writes full time, living in Massachusetts with his wife.
State of Mind was published in 1997.
~ Book Synopsis ~
First of all, this is set in a slightly futuristic setting, but not really too far in to the future (although dates aren't given, the dialogue suggests its very much parallel to our time now and the way of life we live, but with a very definite change in dates some years ahead). The story begins with a woman who is caring for her dying mother, living in the remote swamps of Florida. Susan does word puzzles, and she is very good at it. She often gets puzzles sent back to her by readers of her work, and initially the puzzle she is currently looking at doesn't seem problematic, although she is concerned because it hasn't come via the usual routes - and so it appears someone knows where she is living. However, this worry heightens when she unravels the clue - "I have found you."
Jeffrey Clayton is a professor of abnormal psychology and he lectures as usual but is surprised to find his alarm showing someone has entered the lecture room that has set of the metal detector. This means he is in likely in danger, and as he talks, he begins to scour the room to try and work out who has triggered the alarm, and what it might mean for him. He goes back to his desk, and sitting down places his hand on the gun he has for such emergencies.
But this alarm isn't because a student has murderous intent. Instead once the lecture finishes, someone approaches Jeffrey from the 51st State. A state so new, most people still aren't sure it even exists. Special Agent Robert Martin pushes Jeffrey's buttons, knowing that Jeffrey doesn't want to get involved once again with profiling a killer. But Robert's mission is also different - Because he believes that the killer is also Jeffrey's father, someone Jeffrey's mother went in to hiding with him and Susan, 25 years earlier, and was believed to have died some time shortly after that. Not only that, someone that Martin's believed committed a similar murder just after Jeffrey's mother left, but Martin's couldn't find enough evidence then to convict him. 25 years later, and history was repeating itself.
Robert explains that the very doctrine of the 51st State is at risk. This state was set up to be a safe haven from the escalating violence seen elsewhere in the country, where you needed armed escorts just to leave work and get to your cars. The 51st State promised that it was so secure you didn't even need to lock your doors.
But the killer was threatening to derail all this, and Jeffrey could provide them with some of the answers they needed.
Soon, Jeffrey, Susan and their mother are all drawn in to a terrifying game of cat and mouse, as Jeffrey realises that his presence in the new state wasn't just to give help and advise on the mind of a serial killer, but was also so he could be used as bait to draw him out.
Will they all survive the nightmare? Or will the killer once again get away with murder?
~ Thoughts on the book ~
I haven't read one of John Katzenbach's books before, and I saw this in a pile at my parents, so grabbed it to read and I most certainly wasn't disappointed.
It's a fairly hefty novel (their paperback is well over 500 pages), and while in some instances this can detract from a book, I felt it enabled the whole plot and background to be written in well, without too many loose ends - if anything I can't remember seeing one loose end.
It does mean there is slightly more room for some mistakes, but I didn't notice anything glaring wrong with it - So point in its favour.
In general, the plot and sub-plots scattered through the book were intriguing for me, and while it wasn't driven entirely by the thriller aspect you might find in some novels, it held up well with the psychological issues that were raised, and kept in one notch above so many in this genre of writing, even if at times it wasn't a "unique" look at some of the problems it brought up.
I love Val McDermid's writing when she is taking on the more psychological aspects, and this is where I also found I enjoyed reading this novel. I didn't skip pages just to get to the action, and while it was slower than some books might be to get going, it gave a good grounding, which then really helped the novel to move along as it went on.
I also found the characters believable, both main and secondary, and the sub-plots were enough to balance the book without losing too much, which can often happen in books written with a psychological edge. The chapters were also nicely balanced, giving good views of the "thriller", "psychological" and "human" aspects as they went along and I didn't feel as if I was lost in the maze of it all.
Having a family "haunted" and then hunted by a father for so long was also a neat twist in the whole scheme of things, and gave the book a different layer not often seen. This then brought part of the ending that I found was nothing like I would have guessed, and also left it open for a possible sequel, and yet it also managed to "wrap up" the novel on this occasion as well (I've yet to find out if a sequel was then written).
~ Final thoughts ~
I really enjoyed the book, and considering it was my first read of any of John Katzenbach's, its left me wanting to hunt down others. The story is nicely paced, even allowing for the "slower" beginning, which does really set the rest of the novel up nicely.
If I had to sum it all up in one word, it would be it left me "intrigued". Not only was the plot this time around intriguing, but also intrigued to know if there is a sequel, and if there is, what happens to Jeffrey and Susan next! But saying that, if there isn't another novel featuring them, this book was still wrapped up enough to allow it to stand-alone.
I would suggest that if someone likes Val McDermid's Wire in the Blood series of books, this is someone who will give you a great alternative in a similar area, even if it is set slightly ahead in the future, I still think we can see a relevance to life today.
A full 5 stars from me on this occasion - and if you want to see your serial killers in a slightly different light, this is a book I thoroughly recommend.
~ Availability ~
Since this was a copy that my parents had I didn't pay for it. But looking around, on Amazon its listed starting from just £0-17p (exc. Posting and packing).