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Primal Fear (Vail/Stampler #1)

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  5,193 ratings  ·  218 reviews
Primal Fear: A Novel, by Diehl, William
Hardcover, 418 pages
Published January 26th 1993 by Villard (first published 1992)
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Bert Carson
Like all of Diehl's books, Primal Fear is outstanding. A week after it was published I was reading it on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. First class was almost empty and I was the only one awake when the steward knelt down beside my seat and whispered, "I noticed the book you are reading. It's obvious you are either a psychologist or a psychiatrist." Before I could correct him, he blurted out, "I have a primal fear of flying." I listened to his entire story, carefully closing the book an ...more
WOW! Very intriguing!

'Primal Fear' has all the elements I always craved for in a book. I can say that by the way it gripped me altogether.

This books, surely deserved a 4 star rating until the last 10-12 pages just made it so damn interesting.

And this is one of the books, where the last line reveals the suspense. So I suggest, not to, even accidentally read the last line. And if you do, be naive, like me. I read the last line, and thankfully it didn't spoil the brunch for me.

I truly admire the au
Aaron Stampler is found in a confessional booth holding a knife, proclaiming his innocence, after someone killed the revered Bishop of the city. Martin Vail, a quick-witted lawyer who isn't afraid to leap before he looks, is basically coerced into defending the young man who appears guilty in every sense of the word. Every politician in the city seems to have a vendetta against Vail and looks foward to seeing him lose the case.

Liked the movie. Loved the book. As with most book-to-movie adaptatio
Carolyn Williams-walker
I will never forget when I was finishing this book. I was relaxing after a day at work with the last 50 pages, enjoying the way Diehl was wrapping up the story. I got to the last few pages and was so completely surprised by the twist Diehl put into the story that I sat bolt upright, said basically what the heck (and no, not I didn't actually use that mild of an explicative) and instantly turned back those pages to make sure I wasn't hallucinating what I had just read. I don't get a lot of what t ...more
Joe  Noir
Unlike Sharky’s Machine (also by William Diehl) in which the good guys obviously wore the white hats, and the bad guys obviously wore the black hats, this novel, Primal Fear, is all shades of gray…and blood red.

A high profile defense attorney who has never lost a case is assigned to defend, pro bono, the altar boy accused of butchering the city’s most popular archbishop. The bishop was found in pieces, literally, in his residence and the accused was found covered in the bishop’s blood, hiding in
Those of you who have seen the excellent movie made from this book will have a pretty good idea where it winds up. I saw the movie long before getting the book, so the ending wasn’t a huge surprise, and I found the book to be quite interesting with intriguing characters:

-Vail, the successful lawyer dragged into a case he didn't want because the judge wants to hand him a sure loss as punishment for Vails successful suit against the city ;
- Mollie, the young psychologist who wanted to be a biologi
Dec 28, 2010 Maciek rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of psychological and legal thrillers
Although I saw the movie adaptation with Richard Gere and Edward Norton, I wanted to read this book because I was curious how the author would present his story on paper. It turned out that William Diehl did a great job at mixing psychological suspense with legal coutroom drama.

Aaaron Stampler is accused of murdering Archbishop Richard Rushman - in fact police find him near the scene of the murder - hiding in a confessional, soaked with blood and gripping the murder weapon. Defense attorney Mart
First and best in a series, followed by "Show Of Evil" and "Reign In Hell."

Also a great film starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton in his debut role.

The city of Chicago is shocked when their "saint of Lakeview Drive," Archbishop Richard Bernard Rushman, is brutally murdered in his own rectory. Nineteen year old Aaron Stampler is found crouched in a church confessional, covered in the bishop's blood, mumbling, "Didn't do it, Mama."

Attorney Martin Vail is known for his rough tactics as well as h
Barbara Elsborg
A rippingly good suspense story with an addictive lawyer Vail and a chilling villain - or is he - in the form of Aaron. This is the second time I've read it and I did remember the plot and the outcome but it is such a well written book, it was still entertaining to read it for the second time. It was exciting, fast moving, had plenty of interesting characters and first time through - I remember my toes curling at the end. If you like dark psychological suspense stories - they don't get much bett ...more
Thought provoking

A Bishop with an eminent standing in the local community is sadistically murdered by a teenager who was under his care, to the point that beyond the large amount of mortal wounds inflicted all over his body, his genital organs end up stuffed in his mouth .The potential perpetrator is a teenager suffering from a multiple personality disorder. Was he or his alter ego ?, is he accountable if his alter ego has done it ?, is multiple personality disorder a recognized mental disease
This novel is not just another court-room drama, William Diehl created a bad-ass lawyer that contradicts with John Grisham lawyers (the conscience-loving lawyers).

At first, you would think the story is quite predictable for the reason that the case seems rather clear: an altar boy running away from the home of the bishop where he's killed (scenario: a bishop with blood all over his clothes). No doubt that you would think of something like, 'he absolutely did it! Case closed!' However, the first
Jun 09, 2013 Will rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you like to read late at night
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Martin Vail is defending Aaron Stampler who is accused of murdering Archbishop Rushman. Vail has a good team to assist him with this case and uses unorthodox methods to get the information he needs.

Diehl built intriguing characters in an amazing story. Primal Fear had me wondering what Vail was going to do next in this enthralling legal suspense.

Stampler is a very gentle, mild mannered young man who claims he is innocent of killing the Bishop. However, when he is found hiding in the confessional
Wow this book deserved more than 5 stars, every page you turned there was a new twist to the story you never what to expect. This is about Vail and Venables in the court they dance around each, but knows Venables much better. Every time she thinks she got the upper hand, she just plays into Vails mind games. It is mind games, the biggest surprise is the last page, it was a shame when this story had to end.
I will definitely be reading more of Mr Diehl's books.
Jim A
One of the few instances where the movie actually was almost as good as the book.

Back in the 80's and 90's William Diehl was one of the authors from whom I waited, not always patiently, for a new release.
Did not see this ending coming. Not since Orwell's 1984 has a last line in any novel chilled me the way Diehl's has. Far superior to any courtroom drama, "Primal Fear" employs the essential stream of suspense, but also tackles the psychological interior of criminal mind and motive. His style is blatant, sometimes crude; Diehl is not striving for poetic analogies or metaphors, but mostly dialogue, upbeat, fluid, and remarkably realistic. He uses this dialogue and characters with seemingly tangibl ...more
Receives 4 stars for the twist in the tale .............
Kate Adamek
What can I say that hasn't already been said? This novel has been out for 20+ years and even has an (amazing) accompanying movie so really...what can I say?

Lots. I can say lots.

As is customary with novels I like I follow the same format for all breaking down the plot, pacing, characters, setting, writing, themes, and overall just how the book made me feel. I will also have my Nitpicking section where I point out a few things that didn't gel with me, but that ultimately can be overlooked as they
Πάνος Τουρλής
Με την πεποίθηση ότι πρόκειται για έναν αθώο, ένας μεγαλοδικηγόρος αναλαμβάνει να υπερασπιστεί τον Ααρών, ένα φτωχό παπαδοπαίδι το οποίο κατηγορείται για τον αποτρόπαιο φόνο του αρχιεπισκόπου που του παρείχε στέγη. Όμως, όσο η δίκη προχωρεί, τα στοιχεία που έρχονται στο φως ανατρέπουν την αρχική του εκτίμηση.

Δικαστικό θρίλερ, σχετικά στατικό ως προς τη δράση. Ο δικηγόρος, που παρουσιάζεται ως χαλαρός, λέτσος κι όμως τόσο έξυπνος και εύστροφος, καταφέρνει να κερδίσει μια μεγάλη δίκη και να χρεώσε
Murder Mystery

Read this about 15 years ago. It's on my list of Best Ever Reads.

I highly recommend the movie as well, with brilliant acting by Edward Norton & Richard Gere.
Lisa Tortorello
A Haunting Verdict...
If you are ever in need of an attorney, you want someone like Martin Vail on your side! When told that he had to take the case of the boy who killed the archbishop as a pro bono case, Vail knew it was a punishment for his recent win against the city. Though Aaron Stampler professes his innocence, he is found hiding in a confessional with blood all over him and a carving knife in his hand. The same carving knife used to kill the archbishop. The DA figures that this is a slam-
I love, love, love this movie (mostly because I love, love, love Edward Norton), so when I saw this book at a used book sale, I grabbed it. I hadn't even known it was a book, let alone a series. I am so glad I saw the movie first because they changed so much of it from the book! I'd probably have hated the movie if I'd read this book first. Even knowing what happens, I still really enjoyed this book. It is well-written (except for some weird typos, like Rudman instead of Rushman in one spot) wit ...more
Excellent. I don't want to give one word the book, don't even read the back of it. Just dive in.
I won't watch the movie because seeing Richard Gere as Martin Vial will ruin my life.
Michael Hyneman
One of the best thrillers written in the last 30 years. Tight with character and story. Really worth the read and taking on the other parts of the trilogy.
Tim Potter
One of the best examples of the '90s "serial-killer who masterminds an artful murder spree while sparring intellectually with the lead detective" genre. In this case the detective character is a charming lawyer and the killer may or may not be the killer. Diehl writes with terrific pace and creates two truly memorable characters, a tall order in a really restrictive story model. If you've seen the movie the book won't pack the great punch it did when I read it upon it's original release. It is a ...more
Great plot and characters. At least a dozen typos including calling characters by the wrong name. Where's your editor?
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"Martin Vail, the brilliant "bad-boy" lawyer every prosecutor and politician love to hate, is defending Aaron Stampler, a man found holding a bloody butcher's knife near a murdered archbishop. Vail is certain to lose, but Vail uses his unorthodox ways to good advantage when choosing his legal team--a tight group of men and women who must uncover the extraordinary truth behind the archbishop's slaughter. They do, in a heart-stopping climax unparalleled for the surprise it springs on the re
Loved it! An even better movie with Edward Norton playing Aaron Stampler
Not all movies are as good as the books they are based on but this is one of the exceptions. Edward Norton being one of my most favorite American actors, I had to see his debut film and coo over his incredibly boyish looks. He was exceptional in his portrayal of the lovely yet not-quite-so-right-in-the head Aaron Stampler, and when I stumbled upon the book in a store, crammed between copies of both fantasy and crime novels, I did not hesitate to go home with it.

The text is as if not more flawle
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William Diehl was an American novelist and photojournalist.

Diehl was fifty years old and already a successful photographer and journalist when he decided to begin a writing career. His first novel, Sharky's Machine, which became a movie by the same name was directed by and starred Burt Reynolds. Diehl saw the movie shot on location in and around his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

Following the succ
More about William Diehl...

Other Books in the Series

Vail/Stampler (3 books)
  • Show of Evil
  • Reign in Hell
Show of Evil Reign in Hell 27 Thai Horse Eureka

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