Mimi's Reviews > The Analyst

The Analyst by John Katzenbach
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Feb 28, 10

Read in September, 2002

Remember that somewhat twisted fairy tale known as Rumpelstiltskin? You know, it starts when a poor miller tells the King that he has a daughter who can turn straw into gold. The greedy King decides to put this to the test and gives the maiden until morning to spin a room full of straw into gold – if she is unable to do so, she will die. Hopeless in her task, the maiden is surprised when a troll-like man enters her tower and offers to help her. …With a price of course! After she gives the troll all her material possessions, she is forced to offer him her first child once she becomes Queen. Of course, once her son was born, she did not want to give him up. So the troll gave her 3 days to guess his name – if she did this, she would be able to keep her baby. By some stroke of luck, the Queen’s messenger came across the troll dancing in front of a bonfire, gloating that his name indeed was Rumpelstiltskin. Thus the Queen was able to keep her baby.

Dr. Frederick Starks’ also had to discover the identity of a Rumpelstiltskin, but his path was paved with many more difficulties than was that of the Queen. Frederick Starks (“Ricky”), is a psychoanalyst who is thrust into a nightmarish version of this fairy tale when he receives a letter basically saying that if he doesn’t discover the identity of the letter-writer within 15 days, he will have to commit suicide. If he doesn’t commit suicide, one of 52 family members whose names are included in the list will be tormented, ruined or killed. Over the course of the next 15 days, Rumpelstiltskin proves the seriousness of his threat by systematically ruining Ricky financially and professionally.

Despite the fact the story was probably a bit longer than necessary (overdone description is some parts), this well-crafted and suspenseful story has more twists and turns than one can imagine and the game that Ricky is forced to play is both frustrating and intriguing. Thought provoking social commentary is made throughout the book, touching on topics such as inadequate medical care, homelessness, Internet fraud and false identities. I also appreciated how Mr. Katzenbach referenced other literature, especially the works of Homer as well as Greek mythology (not to forget the Brothers Grimm!)

This would translate really well on the big screen, just as Hart’s War did! Although I am having a hard time casting Ricky Starks – Bruce Willis and John Travolta crossed my mind but I’m just not sure! Mr. Katzenbach and his producers will have to surprise us!
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