3 out of 4 stars
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Fictional criminals kill for various reasons. Some put their nemeses through excruciating pain for vengeance. Others take morbid delight in the suffering of innocent victims to satisfy their own lust and sadism. Nevertheless, Miss Mary Colburn of Green Asylum kills for a sickly and humorous purpose. This novel will take you on an engaging journey through which you will experience complicated emotions: anger, sadness, giddiness, fascination, disgust, and satisfaction.
As a child, Doctor John Rothsford used to be severely beaten and burnt by his alcoholic father. He yearned to escape from that abusive home and all the painful memories. Fortunately, he has found success as a renowned clinical hypnotist to help people in trouble. One day, he encounters one of his colleague’s patients, a little girl named Mary Colburn. Mary is said to display “troubling behavior,” but there is some proof that she is being abused at home. Reminded of his own helpless childhood, John decides to intervene. Using a self-invented technique, he helps her get rid of her anguish in the most shocking way imaginable, all without her conscious acknowledgment.
Years later, Mary is now a reclusive and anxious 21-year-old girl. She spends most of her time with her cat and the lonely widow next door. On her birthday, when Mary finds a leaflet with Doctor John’s name and phone number on it, a wave of inexplicable familiarity and nostalgia hits her. Subsequently, she decides to visit him. Unfortunately, this visitation is the starting point of a series of nauseating deaths.
Green Asylum continuously draws parallels to classic horror figures, such as Frankenstein, werewolves, and vampires. Doctor John, blinded by sentiment, accidentally creates a monster and has to live with the guilt forever. However, the cream of the story is obviously Mary, who is an outstanding antagonist (or protagonist, depending on your viewpoint). I have difficulty selecting words to describe her. Imagine a timid and guilt-ridden introvert who suddenly loses all her humanity. She is girly, naïve, confident, and attractive, but once she feels that her “candies” are being taken away, prepare yourself for the horrendous murder shows. The book juggles between Doctor John’s remorse and Mary’s wickedness seamlessly.
The novel has a focused and captivating plot. The authors, J.E. Kross and Alan Boetticher, know how to create tension and capture the audience’s attention by the straightforward storytelling, strategic suspense, and interesting characterization. They also use staples of the crime genre: an unapologetic psychopath, the precarious side of hypnotism, and of course, gruesome murders. The story has a penchant for subtle twists. Rather than opting for in-your-face turns of events, it drops hints and implications in an understated yet effective way. The ending is excellent; I did not know exactly what to expect, and I was treated with a clever finale.
On the downside, although the book is highly entertaining, it lacks certain depth to be perfectly memorable. Somehow, as horrifying as the murders are, the plot still appears to be “safe” and remains in the comfort zone. Some conflicts and confrontations are resolved too fast since they could have been drawn out longer for suspension’s sake. Detective Rick Farrenger is fairly overlooked. Mary never encounters extreme hardships or true threats, so her “journey” seems too easy and effortless.
Green Asylum is professionally edited. Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars and recommend it to loyal fans of crime fiction and anyone with an interest in hypnotism or the psychology of a psychopath. You should beware of some disgusting scenes that can wear out a faint heart. Also, the book occasionally uses heavy profanities.
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