Dr. Dennis Crane is getting settled into his new psychiatric practice and his new patient, Max, intrigues him like no other. Max also completely unsettles the doctor. Max is intelligent and perceptive, charming and free-spirited, but he doesn’t seem to own a moral compass. Yet, Crane finds himself constantly thinking about his patient as Max starts to encroach on his life.
Crane finds himself making excuses to his wife to spend time with Max. He certainly doesn’t want to realize that he’s being manipulated or that his life is careening out of control. Max has an agenda, but when Crane starts to blindly put his trust in Max, everything around him blurs until his sole focus is Max. And that will be his biggest mistake.
Max. It’s the name of the book and it’s the name of an incredible character created by one of my favorite authors, Bey Deckard. Max could be put into the category of a neo-noir erotic thriller as it had a reminiscent vibe of past movies along the lines of Body Heat and The Last Seduction. Crane’s character remains consistent to those themes as he becomes trapped in difficult situations and then makes choices out of desperation.
The entire book takes place through Crane’s view, yet Max is consistently a well drawn, charismatic character. Max is a psychopath who invites us along on his dark and twisty ride as he dismantles the good doctor in every way. When Dr. Crane meets Max, he is so far in over his head he can’t even see it as Max plays him perfectly. Max’s patient intake sheet lists his reason for seeking treatment as essentially “tired of life,” and all I’ll say is that could be clue #1.
Deckard controls the story with tight reins as he only allows us to see exactly what he wants us to and when. At first, Max’s behavior is offered for shock value. Then, Crane can’t keep his thoughts off of Max and is highly conflicted as he welcomes Max’s mouth and hands on him. As Crane becomes aroused by Max both physically and intellectually, the lies start small at first until Crane is utterly fascinated with Max and the evil depravity that lives within him. Max delivers in almost every sense as from the moment he appears on page, all of the focus is on him and Deckard has created a form of literary edging as the story remains tightly wound with a sense of control all the way through.
This book was so on point the entire way through it wasn’t noticeable until the end that there were two areas I would have liked more from. Dr. Crane is said to be fresh out of school, but clues put his age as mid-to late 30s. Besides his marriage, I would have liked some more of what he had been up to before becoming a doctor. Then, Max. I was looking for the flip side, that one moment where we do see it all through Max’s eyes and get that intense focus on the steps he took to get to the end game. There was some, but it was brief, and was not as much as I would have liked to then fully understand Max. This is not a long novel so constraints were already in place from the start and with those constraints the author chose to use he did an exceptional job. I then would absolutely read the same story told from Max’s point of view because it wouldn’t be the same story at all.
In some ways this book could have been a disturbing read, but Max was too fascinating of a character for me to see it that way. Just as he ensnared Dr. Crane, he did the same to me as it was impossible to look away until the very last word. I will concede that this book will not be for everyone–there’s reference to murder and drug abuse and cheating and amoral characters descending into madness. But, even with all of that, Deckard still managed the almost impossible task of weaving in just a few less sharp moments (I won’t go far as to say tender) between Max and Crane throughout all of the dysfunction and chaos. If you like it darker and you like it twisty, then you’ll wanna meet Max.