Asylum (Novels of the 87th Precinct)

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9780792733355: Asylum (Novels of the 87th Precinct)
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[Read by Sir Ian McKellen]

From our most celebrated writer of the psychological thriller comes this nerve-wracking yet eerily beautiful work of erotic obsession and madness.

In the summer of 1959, Stella Raphael joins her psychiatrist husband, Max, at his new posting -- a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. Beautiful and headstrong, Stella soon falls under the spell of Edgar Stark, a brilliant and magnetic sculptor who has been confined to the hospital for murdering his wife in a psychotic rage. But Stella's knowledge of Edgar's crime is no hindrance to the volcanic attraction that ensues -- a passion that will consume Stella's sanity and destroy her and the lives of those around her.

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Review:

The New Yorker review praised Patrick McGrath's "ornate, deadpan style . . . distinguished by its unusual seriousness, its lack of camp," and described Asylum as a "layered, implicating book, whose terrors and malignities aren't quite the ones we expect, and are a matter of mood and viewpoint as well as of plot." McGrath's fourth novel (his other three are also highly recommended) features a subtly deceptive narrator whose confident, musical voice seduces you--a voice that mirrors, in its meter, emotions ranging from lyrically obsessed, to meticulously fond, to cautious and stiff with horror. And the imagery is unforgettable: the grim architecture of the asylum; a ravaged human head with empty eye sockets; a drowning in a pool on a barren heath.

From the Inside Flap:

Patrick McGrath has created his most psychologically penetrating vision to date: a nightmare world rocked to its foundations by a passion of such force and intensity that it shatters the lives--and minds--of all who are touched by it.

Stella Raphael, a woman of great beauty and formidable intelligence, is married to Max, a staid and unimaginative forensic psychiatrist. Max has taken a job in a huge top-security mental hospital in rural England, and Stella, far from London society, finds herself restless and bored. Into her lonely existence comes Edgar Stark, a brilliant sculptor confined to the hospital after killing his wife in a psychotic rage. He comes to Stella's garden to rebuild an old Victorian conservatory there, and Stella cannot ignore her overwhelming physical attraction to this desperate man. Their explosive affair pits them against Stella's husband, her child, and the entire institution. When the crisis comes to a head, Stella makes a decision--one that will destroy several lives and precipitate an appalling tragedy that could only be fueled by illicit sexual love.

Asylum is a terrifying exploration of the extremes to which erotic obsession can drive us. Patrick McGrath brings his own dazzling blend of cool artistry and visceral engagement to this mesmerizing story of a fatal love and its unspeakably tragic aftermath. And in Stella Raphael, a woman who tears down the walls of her constricted existence to pursue a dangerous passion, he has created a character who will long be remembered for her willingness to take the ultimate risk, even if she must pay the ultimate price.

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