Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review- Dysphoria, The Admirer by Karelia Stetz-Waters


Title Has been changed to:

The Admirer
By Karelia Stetz-Waters
January 24, 2013
Pgs 252
Publisher: Artema Press Incorporated
Kindle version

Helen Ivers is running from a horrific past to what she hopes will be the safety of a small New England town. As the president of Pittock College, another tragedy explodes into her life soon after her arrival. Besieged by memories of her mentally ill sister, which refuse to let her rest, she must face an abomination even as her mind begins to unravel. A young woman died on the train tracks in a shockingly brutal manner.

Reeling from the murder and the threat to her students, Helen is approached by professor Adair Wilson, who draws her into her life and her confidence amid a web of swirling deception.

Ivers and Wilson are as desperate to know the identities of the victim and killer as the killer and the police are to hide them. Whether Adair is Helen’s savior and can be trusted as a lover becomes increasingly unclear as Helen becomes a target.

In a crisis with no clear allies, Helen must not only learn the truth but fight to stay alive. The killer is watching and she has been chosen. Every hour of doubt, fear, and hopeless investigation brings the bone saw closer.

Dysphoria/ The Admirer is an extremely taut, well-written psychological thriller. Karelia Stetz-Waters, did an amazing job of getting not only into the main characters’ heads, but the killer’s and his victims as well. The setting is also perfect: a small New England college town, located next to an abandoned asylum. It offers the perfect backdrop for  chilling serial killings and main characters who have their own dark psychological issues.

Helen is a fascinating character even if she borders slightly on being a cliché as a mark/ victim common to psychological thrillers. She’s suffered and is still suffering over the death of her sister, a mentally ill woman who died in a horrific way. As with many people who deal with a loved one on a regular basis who has a mental illness, she feels a lot of pain that she wasn’t able to help or save her sister as well as feeling guilt that on some level she wanted to have her own life and not have to deal with it.

Like many other people who suffer a major tragedy they feel guilt for, she acts out in ways that are self-destructive to her being as well as her reputation. On the surface, she’s cool and collected and professional as the head of a college. However, she also has a deep vulnerability and teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. This helps her feel a close kinship with the victims and helps her push the police and others who seem not willing to really look into what’s going on.

While this is not really a romance, there is a slight romantic angle to this story. Adair is a young professor who is stirring up the students, creating more energy around the alleged murder to the chagrin of the school establishment. Even though she’s fighting for justice for the victim, she’s rather like a loose cannon in her manner. She’s rebellious and brash and very passionate. She also goes for what she wants and she wants Helen. In her own way, she acts in ways that push Helen’s mental state into more chaos because she’s got her own issues that challenge Helen.

Also to comment on the romantic angle, I rather liked how it didn’t develop in the usual way. In fact, Helen and Adair’s first sexual encounter is quite bizarre and definitely fits with the dark theme of the story. But I also liked how Helen, who seems locked up emotionally, also accepts the fact that she’s being seduced by a woman and goes with it.

The killer: to be honest, I guessed who it was fairly early on, but did love that I couldn’t really know for sure until the end. The author really gets into his head, his past, where he’s coming from in lots of detail. I say “his” because that’s the pronoun the author used when describing him and his past. However, the way this story is written, it could be anyone, including a woman who has pretended to be a man. Of course he has his own psychological issues even if a straight up sociopath.

I thought the pacing of this story was perfect. The author drops clues along the way as the investigation goes on. Helen and Adair start working in tandem, even if being at odds, to prove that there is a killer. The story goes back and forth between different character points of view (not head hopping), which made this a well-rounded story. And while not suspenseful in an intense way, it is a quick page turner.

I see that the author has titled this as the first in a series. I will totally snatch up the next book as soon as it comes out.

Heat level: 2-3- one or two semi graphic sexual scenarios

Grade: 5 Stars

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