The internationally acclaimed author of The Confidant returns with a thrilling psychological novel about a wife’s secrets, a husband accused of murder, and a marriage gone terribly wrong. For this special blog post we have a guest review by Josh Hanagarne.
One thought kept going through my head as I read The Case of Lisandra P.:
Being crazy must be exhausting.
“Crazy” is an imprecise term, but if you read this book, I think you’ll agree that it’s a relatively good fit for your narrator, one Eva Maria.
At the beginning of the book, Eva becomes intrigued by the death of a beautiful young woman, Lisandra, who has taken a six story plunge out of a window. Was it murder? Suicide?
Eva decides to investigate, and she could not be less congenial or easygoing than Encyclopedia Brown. Her desire to learn the truth becomes a full-blown obsession, especially when her own psychoanalyst becomes the prime suspect. She believes that he’s innocent, and she sets out to prove it.
How? By painstakingly combing through a bunch of his recorded interviews with all of his other patients.
The interviews are presented in the book as transcripts, and were my favorite parts of the book. It’s a structural choice that might have been gimmicky in someone else’s hands–say, someone who learned about psychoanalysis on Law and Order–but the interviews come across as wholly believable, completely lacking in sensationalistic shrink tics, and lead to some very satisfying and clever reveals.
At least, if you believe Eva.
The introduction of the interviews presents intriguing complications for anyone trying to solve the mystery. Eva is unreliable, and she is our imperfect lens into the story. However, she takes many of her clues from interviews with people who may–or flat out are, by their own admission–unreliable.
As she goes through the tapes, we learn more about the pasts of everyone involved. Eva and Lisandra are both full of delicious and dark hang-ups that Patricia Highsmith would have adored. There is a musician who has run out of reasons to live, intercut with the Argentinian unrest of the 1980’s and a brutal crash course in the dynamics of South American torture during that decade.
Over all of the patients, is their accused shrink, Vittorio. The idea of a psychoanalyst using his or her knowledge of human weakness for manipulative purposes is nothing new: think of every incarnation of Hannibal Lecter we’ve had.
The reader is not presented with enough information to know beyond any doubt that Vittorio is up to something unsavory. But, via Eva, there are so many indications that he might be.
A final word on Eva and her mental state. This is a novel that insists that you read carefully and follow the many trails down which an unraveling mind propels itself. Eva becomes increasingly frantic as the book goes on, leading to lengthy ruminations and passages that almost approach stream of consciousness, but never quite get there.
Riding along in her head is exhausting. I can’t quite say it’s fun to spend time in her thoughts, but the mystery is irresistible.
The Case of Lisandra P. is a disorienting, dark book. If you have enjoyed Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train, or any other stories that invite you to take a ride with someone deeply troubled, you’ll find much to love here.
Highly recommended, particularly for fans of mysteries that abandon the paint by numbers approach so common to the genre.”