The Mask of Sanity: Jacob M. Appel
Fear is an emotion that at one time or another we all experience. It’s the feeling of an impending danger, evil, pain or whether a threat is real or imagined. Sometimes people snap and their minds drift in other directions and someone that has been revered, admired and looked up too can change in a heartbeat. Dr. Jeremy Balint is a cardiologist and the youngest head of any medical division at Laurendale Methodist Hospital. But, Dr. Balint is not what his veneer or persona exuded when you look or speak to him. Look deeply into his eyes and realize that what lies beneath the irises and the pupils lurks a demonic, sadistic and horrific man whose personality will remind you of the Son of Sam, Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde or any serial killer with a specific MO. Thinking about killing keeps him fueled but who will be his first victim is his dilemma?
When you meet Amanda Balint and her two daughters Phoebe and Jessie you realize that they are just like their mother very materialistic, very status conscience and even prejudice towards anyone that might be different or not what they feel a person should be. As the story progresses we hear the voice of Jeremy Balint deciding on his first victim as we next meet and learn about his hate and animosity for Dr. Warren Sugarman. While traveling home from Hager Heights his first encounter with killing comes into play as he sees a dog lay unconscious but breathing. Blood and colored it left eye is crimson and the author describes it so vividly you can see the carnage done to the dog and feel its pain. But, he could care less and the result is a present for the transplant surgeon, Sugarman the injured dog hoping he might find a way to save it. Dropping the poor dog in his flowerbed. The author continues to help readers learn how he met Amanda, why he chose to marry her and two daughters later but he knew I guess from the start that Amanda was more like a facilitator of things and managed to run the house, carpools, dinners and deal with his two daughter. Paperwork, meetings and conferences were his way of extracting himself from the social engagements planned that he would rather forego. But, at times his negative attitude and disregard for plans did go awry when Amanda sort of pulls rank but for our story we get to know the innermost horrific Jeremy and his true feelings about Sugarman or anyone that stands in his way to get what he wants. Meeting him the next day and dealing with being polite Sugarman tells him about the poor dog he found in his flowerbed. Murder was on the menu today and the thoughts veered from where, to when, who and how. Collecting supplies would be first, planning strategy and then hopefully committing the murder or murders unseen and of course scot free. His mother and stepfather were his mainstay and often his alibis you might say for his transgressions. Amanda disliked them and always begged off as they complained about not seeing her or their granddaughters.
When you learn just how wonderful he was before this all happened and as Dr. Jekyll was an upstanding citizen, hardworking, honest and faithful to a flaw. But, he realized that he needed a change, challenge, excitement and how Sugarman who flouted the rules and he had Amanda. But, when you learn more about her and Sugarman you wonder why it took him so look to see the glaring truth right in front of his eyes. Life became mundane with Amanda and soon he realized his only respite was visiting his parent and just to find out if his wife was meeting up with Sugarman for some fun in the sun afternoon. Their lives were like going through the acts of a bad play almost in slow motion as we learn more about his first victim and the reign of the Green Ribbon Strangler. The ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner or appear to be of sound mental health considered a person who is sane. The title of this novel is Mask of Sanity where a person appears to outwardly pretend or create a life of a normally functioning able to mask or disguise the fundamental lack of internal personality structure. The result is behavior that is destructive and self-destructive. Balint outwardly appears to be sincere, caring father, charming, intelligent on the outside but within his body, the outward façade lies a psychopathic person that does not have the ability to express himself with genuine emotions. The mask of sanity is voluntarily thought to hide his lack of internal structure, hides a serious yet unidentified neuropsychiatric defect.
Murder became his obsession and Jeremy planned to bide his time, avoid mistakes, leaving any evidence at the scene of the crime, reading books on crime, types of substances used to kill people and even read In Cold Blood. Finding he always thinking about murder he runs into Gloria Sugarman’s ex-wife refraining from telling her his plans of course, she telling him not to trust Warren and of course all the while gathering information that would help him kill his nemesis. Conversation at a dinner party at the Sugarman’s perks up his ears when he learns that someone was arrested, namely a teen for killing the dog in he dumped in the flowerbeds.
Balint does not endear himself to his patients and as it is related to the reader most are hopeless cases. Men and women with heart problems are in some cases unfixable even if someone that died and was an organ donor thinking it might save their life gave them a new heart. Meet Chester Pastarank and Warren Sugarman who would slice open their chests to rejuvenate them with blood pump salvaged from and accident of many different magnitudes. Norman Navare is one the stars of our novel arriving with his daughter Delilah. Taken with her the moment he meets her, telling her to address him by his first name, he goes more than the extra mile to assure her that her father would definitely get a new heart keeping him alive for many more years. So taken by her that Jeremy becomes obsessed with his infatuation with Delilah and confronts his own lack of empathy and feelings for his wife. Amanda is self absorbed in her own private world dealing with her social engagements, her children but mostly caught up in her own web of lies and deceits yet thinking she is hiding her affair.
Each murder was unique unto itself but the first one was supposed to be a young girl but sparing her life he killed two elderly people to learn she was related to them. The hope of the murders being on the top of the news was not exactly what he expected. It took time for them to learn about the murders and the green ribbon, which would be his trademark. Between murders Jeremy got to know Delilah, lying to her about just about everything except wanting to get her father a heart. At the hospital’s meeting to determine which candidates would receive a heart, Sugarman shot him down leading to Jeremy wanting to take him out even more. But, first he had to complete two more murders and then hopefully Sugarman would be his most creative and outstanding accomplishment.
Things took on a different turn when Rabbi Steinhoff appears and asks him to be the medical director or voice of Project Cain hoping to provide free medical care for people that cannot afford it. With the death of Abby Goldhammer, Jeremy’s neighbor’s daughter and blaming it on him for not taking the proper precautions and she drowned in his pool, he began to feel a touch of guilt but taking on the medical director’s duties of this huge project was not exactly what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, the Rabbi had a great idea but the end result was he had not figured out the funding, the logistics, the demographics or the public relations and marketing needed to be successful. But, his mind was on murder and Kenny McCord and the first two he got lucky but what about the fourth. Who would be next and why? Kenny was a young man alone and his rationale for killing this intelligent child was his appearance and his sullen face. Next, he found a young girl by herself and conned her into letting him give her a ride when misdirecting her when she asked for directions. But, what he does to Mrs. Constantinou is both terrifying and despicable making her believe that she was going to get insurance money left to her by her late husband. When you read pages 140-143 it will make you cringe. Leading us to the murder of Sugarman, which this reviewer will let you, witness as it was his most creative and diabolical. Sugarman never saw it coming but what happens next after the funeral, after he is coerced into giving the eulogy and you hear his heartwarming, lying speech, you begin to realize that his mask of sanity has gotten even thicker and maybe the letters IN need to be inserted before the word.
Death seems to play a positive role in his life even though Bonnie Kluger plagued him with the death of the dog, the death of Amy and what happens and follows will make you wonder if he wasn’t born under the green ribbon of good luck. After Project Cain folds, his murders are done, the police are looking for the Green Ribbon Strangler, his relationship with Delilah blossoms even though her father has passed, the hospital comes across with a shocking and startling surprise. After being told that Amanda wanted a divorce, not really caring and introducing his daughters to Delilah, being told that he was being nominated for a highly prestigious position in the hospital by Bruce Sanditz the department chairman. A very enlightening meeting and an ending that you won’t expect as Jeremy finds himself in a good place with the hospital, a new life with Delilah, living close by to see his girls and the final impact of the last page and last line letting readers know the uncertainty of life. Author Jacob M. Appel has created the perfect serial killer who masks himself as a well know cardiologist by day and a terrifying killer by night you might say as Jeremy feels justified in all that he’s done but is he done? Jeremy Balint what is really behind your MASK OF SANITY?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine