Cover image for Don't say a word
Don't say a word
Klavan, Andrew.
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Publication Information:
New York : Pocket Books, [1991]

Physical Description:
310 pages ; 25 cm
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Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A secret is buried with the body of Elizabeth's drug-riddled mother. And as Elizabeth's mind decays, the imaginary friend who protects her becomes a creature of substance. But she tells no one--except Dr. Nathan Conrad, known as "the psychiatrist of the damned." Conrad, however, has problems of his own: the abduction of his daughter, Jessica, and the secret cameras and microphones that stop him and his wife from calling the cops. This is truly dark territory, every bit the equal of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, even though Klavan, who garnered an Edgar under the pseudonym Keith Peterson and wrote the screenplay for the Michael Caine psychological thriller A Shock to the System, isn't the neogothic stylist Harris is. The book's good guys, the doctor and his family, are warmly drawn, while the investigating cop is simply a big, flatulent dollop of low-level humanity. Klavan's sinewy links between the killers, the messed-up Elizabeth, and the kidnapping are slick and ingenious. If you're foolishly trying to get to sleep after watching Jonathan Demme's celluloid treatment of Lambs, best forget it. Crack open Klavan's eerie masterwork instead. The rest of a long night awaits. ~--Peter Robertson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Klavan, an Edgar winner who also writes as Keith Peterson, expertly interweaves the disparate worlds of a psychiatrist who takes on the hard cases: catatonics, schizophrenics and the criminally insane. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A parent's nightmare becomes reality for psychiatrist Nathan Conrad when his five-year-old daughter is kidnapped by a sociopath and his sadistic partner. With their apartment apparently bugged, Conrad and his wife cannot even contact the police. Only when he discovers a link between the kidnapping and one of his patients can Conrad begin trying to save his daughter's life. Klavan has crafted a tight, taut, edge-of-the-seat thriller with multiple plot twists and surprises, a decidedly unstereotypical hero, and a fascinating psychological background. The almost unbearable suspense of what may be the thriller of the year is guaranteed to keep the reader's heart pounding right up to the last page. Recommended for all popular fiction collections.-- Eric W. Johnson, Teikyo Post Univ., Waterbury, Ct. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- This psychological thriller chronicles the kidnapping of the adored child of a successful psychiatrist in New York City. From the time two men knock at an elderly woman's door and ask permission to conduct a maintenance check until Jessie is reunited with her mother, the pace never slackens. The vulnerability of the honest person to the evil purpose of criminals is made bone-numbingly clear as readers are alternately privy to the inner thoughts and actions of family members (including Jessie), the terrorists, and the police. Escape literature to spellbind mature teens and perhaps nudge them closer to discarding their youthful sense of immortality. --Barbara Hawkins, West Potomac High, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Psychiatrist of the Damned Dr. Nathan Conrad sat alone. He rested his hands on the arms of the leather recliner. He leaned his head back. He stared up at the molding that ran along the top of the walls. He thought: Shit . His head was beginning to hurt. Red spots flashed and spread like stains before his bad right eye. His stomach felt hollow and heavy. There was no question about it: it had been a depressing session. It was Timothy again. Timothy Larkin. Twenty-seven years old. A talented choreographer with a promising career. He had already worked as an assistant on two Broadway shows. And a year ago, he had landed a job as head choreographer of an outdoor dance performance for the World Trade Center's summer program. About a month after that, he'd discovered he had AIDS. For the last six months, Conrad had watched the young man waste away. The dancer's frame, once lithe and muscular, had grown tremulous and frail. The chiseled face had gone flaccid and had sunk in on itself. He'd had radiation treatments for various cancers, and his rich black hair was gone as well. Conrad rubbed his eye to clear away the red clouds. With a sigh, he worked his way out of his chair. After an hour of sitting, his bad leg, his right leg, had stiffened. He had to limp across the tiny office to the little lampstand near the bathroom door. A Mr. Coffee stood on the lamp-stand. His beloved Mr. Coffee. Mr. Coffee, Esquire. Sir Coffee. Saint Coffee. His mug was standing by the machine. It was a black mug with white lettering: life's a bitch, then you die. He lifted the coffeepot from its holder. He poured the dregs from the pot on top of the dregs in the mug. Setting the pot down, he sipped at the mug. "Aah!" he said loudly. Tasted just like sludge. He shook his head, carrying the mug back to his chair. It was his third mug of the stuff this morning. He found it hard to believe it was only nine-fifteen. * * * Conrad had taken Timothy on at the request of the Gay and Lesbian Health Alliance. The Alliance internist--a woman named Rachel Morris--had made the referral. "You know, I can't afford you guys anymore," Conrad had told her. "Well, you did put your name on the list, Nathan," she said. "Yeah, but you didn't tell me the rest of the page was blank." She laughed. "What can I say? You've developed a reputation among the city's more desperate support services." "Oh, yeah? What's my reputation? And make it good." "They call you the Psychiatrist of the Damned." Conrad held the phone in one hand and his head in the other. "I'm flattered, Rachel. I'm deeply moved. But I'm a fancy Upper West Side shrink now. I have a wife and child and Mercedes-Benz to support." "Oh, Nathan, you do not." "Well, I have a wife and child. And I would have a Mercedes-Benz if you guys would stop calling me." "And your wife can support herself." "She can? Can she buy me a Mercedes-Benz?" "Nathan!" Rachel had finally cried. "He has no money, his insurance doesn't cover it. He's suicidal and he has nowhere else to go. He needs you." Conrad considered it for another moment. Then he let out a howl of despair. * * * Conrad's office was in a rambling Gothic apartment building on Central Park West between Eighty-Second and Eighty-Third streets. He was on the ground floor in the back. His only window looked out on the depressing airshaft his building shared with the rambling Gothic apartment building next door on the Eighty-Third Street corner. He kept the window covered with wooden blinds. No daylight came through it--you could hardly tell there was a window there at all. The office always looked stark somehow, stale and artificial. The office was divided into a waiting room and a consulting room. Both were small. The waiting room was no more than a rectangular strip. There was just space enough there for a couple of bookshelves, a couple of chairs, and a small corner table on which Conrad provided his patients with the New York Times and Psychology Today . He never read either himself. The consulting room was a little bigger, but it was crowded. There was the window on the north wall and a bathroom on the south. But every other inch of available wallspace was taken up by bookshelves on which sat such weathered tomes as Sexuality and the Child, Psychopharmacology and the Complete Writings of Sigmund Freud in several volumes. There was also a rolltop desk across one corner. Its lid was up and its writing surface was completely covered with papers and journals. Somewhere under all that stuff there was a telephone and an answering machine. Balanced on the very corner was a traveler's alarm clock. Finally, there was the essential furniture: Conrad's chair--the leather recliner--the couch for analysands, and the big yellow armchair for patients in therapy. * * * When Timothy had sat in that armchair today, it had dwarfed him. His thin arms had lain wearily on the rests. His bony hands had trembled slightly. His head had wavered as if his neck couldn't support it. A Mets baseball hat, pitifully large, sat at an angle on his head. It was supposed to cover his baldness. Looking at him, Conrad had to lift himself up through a cloud of pity. Had to set his own sad and saggy face into an impassive mask. He breathed slowly, forcing the air out with his abdomen. He waited for his mind to click into its low, dark state of receptivity. No judgments, no interpretations. Let the connections make themselves. The way of the Tao is easy , he recited, simply give up all your opinions . "You know," Timothy was saying softly, "the guilt is worse than the fear. I mean, when you get down to it, I feel so bad but…I'm not really all that afraid of dying." Conrad listened silently. Timothy had been talking about this for weeks: the guilt and shame that weighed on him as heavily as death. He already knew the causes of it. Now he was just trying to trade that knowledge in for an insight. He raised his head wearily. Looked hard at Conrad with wide, sunken, black eyes. "What I hate is feeling that…God is punishing me. That AIDS is some kind of divine sentence. Punishment for my sins." Conrad shifted slowly in the recliner. "Which sins are these, Tim?" he asked softly. "Oh…you know." Timothy took a long, painful breath. "The same old sins. My life, my lifestyle. My sexuality." And then, with an effort: "I mean, this is what you get, right, for having sex with men?" And Conrad asked: "Is it?" The young man's eyes filled with tears. He raised them toward the ceiling. "I feel as if somewhere in my mind there's some kind of fundamentalist preacher, you know? Like in that Woody Allen movie: some kind of preacher living in my conscience, shaking his finger at me and saying, 'See? See? God is not mocked, Timothy. This is what you get for doing dirty things with other boys.' " Conrad smiled with as much charm as he could muster. "I hate to sound like a psychiatrist here," he said, "but this preacher character--he doesn't happen to look anything like your father, does he?" With a laugh, Timothy gave a weary nod. "You know, I think he really would think that. My father. If I talked to him. I mean, maybe he wouldn't say it out loud, but I really think he would believe that I'm…being punished because I'm gay." "It's an interesting theological point," Conrad said. "If AIDS is a punishment for homosexuality, what's childhood leukemia a punishment for? Not sharing your toys?" Timothy gave another soft laugh. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust," Conrad said gently. "Oh, great." With a groan, Timothy laid his head back on the chair. "Who said that? Sigmund Freud?" "Probably. One of us smart Jewish guys." For another long moment, Timothy sat like that, his stick figure sprawled in the chair, his head flung back. Then Conrad saw tears begin spilling down his temples. Dripping onto the chair back, dampening, darkening, the yellow upholstery. Conrad glanced over at the clock on the desk. It was 9:13. Thank God, he thought. Thank God, it's almost over. For a moment, he felt the tide of pity rise in him again. He could hardly stand it. He forced it down. He looked back at his patient. Timothy remained still, his head back, the tears falling. Hurry it up, Timbo, Conrad thought, you're killing me here. And finally, the dancer lowered his eyes to the psychiatrist. The tears were already drying. The lips were set. With welling emotion, Conrad saw the young man's eyes go hard. "I'm glad I've loved the people that I've loved," Timothy said. "I don't want to die ashamed. I'm glad." Then his lips trembled, buckled. He began to cry again. Conrad leaned forward and spoke very gently. "Our time is up," he said. "We have to stop now." * * * Timothy was going to feel better, Conrad thought. He leaned back in his recliner and sipped the steam off the thick coffee. If he had time to work on it, Timothy would come to terms with his guilt and his disease. He would feel refreshed in some mysterious way; at peace. And then he would die--slowly, painfully, horribly, alone. Shit. Conrad shook his head. Great attitude, Nathan my friend. And it was only twenty past nine in the morning. He couldn't afford to be this depressed yet. There was still June Fefferman to get through: a sweet, dependent little mouse of a woman whose airline-pilot husband had died last year in a car crash while driving home from the airport. Then after her, he had Dick Wyatt, a vibrant forty-five-year-old executive who had slipped on the stoop of his Brooklyn brownstone one morning and paralyzed himself from the neck down. Then, and maybe worst of all, there was Carol Hines, who had lost her five-year-old son to a brain tumor. Conrad's daughter, Jessica, was just five herself. He hated to deal with Carol Hines. Conrad squeezed his eyes shut. He made a noise, half sigh, half groan. Psychiatrist of the Damned, he thought. Jesus, where were all those well-heeled, run-of-the-mill Upper West Side neurotics he'd heard so much about? The best he could do for this lot was cure their delusions so they could live out their nightmares. Outside, he heard the waiting-room door squeak open, close with a thud. He glanced at the little clock again: 9:25. Mrs. Fefferman and her dead husband had arrived five minutes early. Five minutes. He still had time to relax a little before the session began. He gripped the handle of his mug gratefully. He brought it to his lips. Breathed in the smell of it. The phone rang. A piece of notepaper balanced on top of it slid off and floated down to the floor. The phone was a black push-button. It rang again: a loud, shrill blast. "Uh--how can I put this?" Conrad muttered at it. "Bugger off." The phone rang again. With a curse, Conrad rolled the recliner over to the desk. He laid his coffee mug down on top of his paper-in-progress on grief reactions in children. He snatched up the phone. "Dr. Conrad," he said. "Yo, Nate. Jerry Sachs here." Conrad cringed. There went his five minutes. "Hi, Jerry," he said as cheerfully as he could. "How're you doing?" "Oh, you know. Not raking in the big Central Park West bucks like some people, but getting by. How about you?" "Oh," said Conrad. "Fine, thanks." "Listen, Nate," Sachs pushed on, "I got something over here that I think might be right up your alley." "Nate" shook his head. He could picture Sachs on the other end of the line. Sitting behind his oversize desk at Impellitteri Municipal Psychiatric Facility. Leaning back in his chair, his big feet propped on the desk, his hand tapping the dome of his belly. His enormous egg-shaped head tilted way back so that his black glasses flashed in the toplight. And that huge onyx plaque in front of him: jerald sachs, md, director. That plaque had to be about three feet long. But then Conrad figured Sachs had earned it. His appointment to the directorship was the result of nearly ten hard years of sucking up to the Queens borough president, Ralph Juliana. Conrad had seen Juliana on the TV news: a squat party hack with an expensive suit and a cheap cigar. Sucking up to him could not have been pleasant. Sachs had spent the better part of a decade laughing at the weasel's jokes. Showing up at his parties. Providing him with a "respected psychiatrist" to impress his friends with. Not to mention giving expert opinions in several court cases in which Juliana had an interest. And finally, he had managed to get himself appointed director of Impellitteri. Proud master of its green cinder-block walls, its barely furnished dorms, its squalid day rooms. Fearless leader of its staff of cast-off doctors and semiliterate therapy aides and pit-bull nurses with basset-hound frowns. The King Python in the city's snakepit. And for all that, Conrad owed him. He had met Sachs some fifteen years ago when they were both interns at NYU Medical Center. He hadn't much liked him then either. But five years ago, Conrad had found himself treating a manic-depressive teenager named Billy Juarez. Billy was destitute and growing violent. He had already punched a teacher who had questioned him about his attendance record. He was starting to talk about buying himself a gun. Billy needed hospitalization and medication and he didn't have the money to get it. He was destined, Conrad feared, for one of the public hellholes. Then the state started funding an experimental program that required removing patients from Impellitteri to a pleasant private sanitorium up near Harrison. The program also included access to lithium. Conrad had called Jerry Sachs and reminded him of their connection. He'd asked for a placement for Billy Juarez and Sachs had come through. So he owed him. So he said, "Something up my alley, huh?" He couldn't work any enthusiasm into it, but he kept going. "Well, I'm interested to hear about it, Jerry. I am kind of busy right now but I--" "Come on, Nate!" Sachs said with the gruff, jovial camaraderie that Conrad detested. "You can't just sit over there on CPW treating rich biddies who get bored counting their money. Although I guess you private practitioners know the cure for that, all right." Yeah, just like you political cocksuckers know the cure for integrity, Conrad thought. But he kept his mouth shut. After a while, Sachs stopped laughing at his own joke and went on. "No, but seriously, Nathan, this is something exciting. A 330-20." "A criminal procedure?" "Yeah, it was just in the newspapers and everything." "Oh," said Conrad bleakly. "In the newspapers and everything, huh?" "Yeah, sure. About three weeks ago. The Elizabeth Burrows case? Don't tell me you're too much of a big shot to read the tabloids?" "Uh…" "Well, the court sent her to us for a thirty-day evaluation, to see whether she's fit to stand trial. She's eighteen. Been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. She's got command-auditory hallucinations, severe delusions, and a history of violence to boot." "Sounds like a druggie." "Not that we can find." "Really. But she's violent." "Is she." Sachs gave a low whistle. "Listen. I started questioning her, okay? Everything's going great, better than great. She loves me; she won't stop talking. Then, all of a sudden, kaboom. She becomes, as we say, agitated. I mean she flipped the fuck out, man. Comes after me. Damn near strangled me before I got some help, got her restrained. And she's this little woman, Nate. I mean, you wouldn't believe her strength. Took four aides to throw her in seclusion, plus two more to get her in four-point restraint. When we let her out, we had a security-care aide on her one to one, and I mean this two-hundred-pound SCATA's scared out of her ever-loving wits. Finally, when we'd pumped enough medication in Miss Crazy Lady to snow an elephant, I put her in one of the forensic singletons, all right? And then what? She goes catatonic on me. No movement at all, won't speak, just sits and stares…" Conrad snorted. "Great, Jerry. I'll come right by with my Super Duper Delusional Atomizer. I mean, what the hell do you want me to do for her?" "Nothing. We're not trying to cure her, man. We need someone to get her talking. Determine whether she's fit to stand trial and make a report." "So give her to one of your forensic guys. That's what they're there for. Listen, I have a patient in a minute here. Couldn't we…?" "Oh, tell her to cool her high heels," said Sachs. He chuckled. "No, seriously. Seriously…You were involved in that study up at Columbia Pres three years ago, right? Catatonics. Same kind of cases; you did great stuff. I mean, Science Times covered that, Nathan. You have a big reputation…" There was a pause. Conrad sat silently shaking his head. Then Sachs said, "It's a big case, Nate. Why the hell do you think I got in on it in the first place? The bosses are watching me. The papers too, see. You're the kind of name that'll make a difference to them." And when Nathan still didn't answer, Sachs said, "It's a favor, Nate. Really. Really." Conrad looked at the clock again: 9:34. Mrs. Fefferman would be getting restless. He ran his hand up into his hair. "What, uh…what was she arrested for?" Sachs let out a loud laugh--half triumph, half relief. "Boy, you really don't read the papers, do you? The Burrows case. Elizabeth Burrows? She killed a man, Nathan. She cut his throat. Christ Almighty, she cut the poor bastard to pieces." Copyright © 1991 by Trapdoor Inc. Excerpted from Don't Say a Word by Andrew Klavan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.