Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: The Architect

The Architect
The Architect by Keith Ablow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

West Crosse is an architect par excellence, a man of enormous creative vision and sensitivity to the needs of his wealthy clients. This is especially true of the homes he designs for families - anticipating both current and future needs. They are creations of light and space, temples to truth and beauty. Crosse is a man of high ideals.

But I wouldn't want him to design a house for me.

Crosse goes beyond planning perfect homes for his clients, you see. He also plans perfect lives for them. If a member of the family is an obstacle to the happiness and growth of the family, Crosse removes that person... and he finds one in each family he works for. An abusive husband, a wife who doesn't want children, a daughter with a drug problem - all of them must die for the good of the family.

Forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger is put on the case after the President of the United States begins receiving fan mail from the unsub who has been killing and surgically dissecting wealthy people across the country. Clevenger is beset by personal problems: his love life has taken a downturn, and his continuing problems with his adopted son Billy often steal the stage from the visionary killer on a mission from God. Fighting his alcoholism becomes harder and harder, and finally he begins prescribing Antabuse for himself to prevent falling into the pit for good.
In contrast, the families he meets during his investigation seem to be coming out of their own dark times. They seem calm, even happy... and even relieved at the death of their loved one, though they don't say so out loud. It makes investigating... interesting and nonrewarding at the same time.

I've read several books of Ablow's, and this one was an enormous pleasure to read. Crosse's sense of beauty and clean proportions take him out of the bounds of the 'average' serial killer, while Clevenger's personal life becomes a messy disaster. There are no simple solutions in our hero's world, and he's not going to get them in this novel. For Crosse, though, the mission is clear, and there is no hesitation in his actions. The consequences are horrible. If a movie were made of this book, Hollywood would have to alter the ending. The audience would not accept it.

A side note: the Skull and Bones group of Yale gets a lot of attention in this novel. Crosse belongs to it, and uses its connection to get contracts with the high and mighty. President Buckley (an excellent choice of names) is a member and, given the book's 2005 publication date, was probably meant to draw comparisons to George W. Bush. Ablow casts no aspersions on the Bonesmen, political or otherwise. Membership simply makes them more vulnerable to trusting The Architect and less likely to talk to investigators about other potential victims.

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