Book review: The Blind by A.F. Brady
As a practising psychotherapist and mental health counsellor in New York, A.F. Brady has played her fair share of mind games.
So expect to be bowled over by her mesmerising debut novel… a gripping journey into the psyche of a disturbed woman as her life and her career threaten to implode in spectacular manner.
And when the case study is a psychiatrist struggling to keep her own sanity as she becomes immersed in the twisted life of one of her most baffling and unsettling patients, the outcome becomes dangerously – and excitingly – unpredictable.
Every morning, 37-year-old psychiatrist Sam James gets up at six forty-five. She has a shower, drinks a cup of coffee, puts on her make-up… and ignores the empty bottles piling up by the door of her Manhattan apartment.
By her own admission, Sam’s life is a mess. She is a just-about-functioning alcoholic with a chaotic home life and an abusive boyfriend, but she has spent years carefully crafting her reputation as the best psychologist at Typhlos, Manhattan’s most challenging psychiatric institution.
Sam has a reputation for being able to handle the toughest of cases. She considers her own life of mental turmoil to be beyond redemption but is convinced that if she can’t save herself, she can save someone else, and it is this saviour complex that serves her well in helping her patients.
When Richard McHugh, a mysterious patient whom no other therapist wants to treat, is admitted to Typhlos, Sam is determined to unlock his secrets and his psyche, but she can’t work out why Richard appears to be so normal in a hospital filled with madness.
As Sam gets pulled into Richard’s twisted past, she can’t help but analyse her own life, and what she discovers terrifies her. Before long, Sam must ask herself, who is the saviour and who is the saved?
The Blind is a stunning debut, posing questions about the fine line between sanity and madness, whilst delivering an addictive psychological thriller, packed with tension, mystery and an insider’s close-up on the world of mental illness.
But most impressive is A.F. Brady’s powerful, compassionate and moving portrayal of Sam, an unstable, mixed-up, messed-up woman fighting her own demons… a doctor who must learn to heal herself if she is to heal others.
Sam’s painful battle – both for herself and the reader – through darkness, despair, self-destruction and self-deception is the highlight of this remarkable novel. Add on an entertaining layer of black humour and a startling twist in the tail and the entertainment value is simply unmissable.
(HQ, hardback, £12.99)