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A Brief Lunacy
Cover of A Brief Lunacy
A Brief Lunacy
A Novel
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An elderly couple is taken captive in a psychological thriller that "coils tighter and tighter until the tension is almost unbearable" (Tess Gerritsen).

Jessie and Carl have made a terrible mistake. When Jonah came to their cabin in the Maine woods, asking to use the phone, they should never have let him in. But he told them his campsite had been robbed and he was stranded with no money and no gear. Jessie took pity on him. She was thinking about her own missing schizophrenic daughter, and hoping she was receiving the same kindness—wherever she was.

They invite him in, share their dinner with him, and offer him a bed for the night. They soon discover that this stranger at their table knows all about them, all about their troubled daughter, and all about the secrets they haven't revealed to each other during forty years of marriage. By morning, they realize the young man has no intention of leaving . . .

"A sober, wrenching literary thriller . . . The dark suspense in this concentrated psychological character study makes for a genuine page-turner." —Publishers Weekly

An elderly couple is taken captive in a psychological thriller that "coils tighter and tighter until the tension is almost unbearable" (Tess Gerritsen).

Jessie and Carl have made a terrible mistake. When Jonah came to their cabin in the Maine woods, asking to use the phone, they should never have let him in. But he told them his campsite had been robbed and he was stranded with no money and no gear. Jessie took pity on him. She was thinking about her own missing schizophrenic daughter, and hoping she was receiving the same kindness—wherever she was.

They invite him in, share their dinner with him, and offer him a bed for the night. They soon discover that this stranger at their table knows all about them, all about their troubled daughter, and all about the secrets they haven't revealed to each other during forty years of marriage. By morning, they realize the young man has no intention of leaving . . .

"A sober, wrenching literary thriller . . . The dark suspense in this concentrated psychological character study makes for a genuine page-turner." —Publishers Weekly

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About the Author-
  • CYNTHIA THAYER is the author of Strong for Potatoes (named best new fiction by Ingram Books and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection) and A Certain Slant of Light (published by Reader's Digest in English, Portuguese, Danish, and Swedish), both Book Sense selections. Born in New York City and raised in Nova Scotia, Thayer now lives with her family in Gouldsboro, Maine. She has taught at the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and at the University of Maine at Machias.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 31, 2005
    An act of kindness leads to horrors in a sober, wrenching literary thriller. Carl and Jessie, a long-married and loving couple, are enjoying a quiet retirement in their isolated Maine house. Their one real worry is their schizophrenic, institutionalized daughter, Sylvie, who one day calls to say that she has run away from her facility. As the couple worries about Sylvie, a young man calling himself Jonah appears, claiming that his camping gear was stolen from a nearby site. Ignoring Carl's wariness, Jessie offers Jonah a bed for the night; Jonah responds by taking them hostage in their home. Jonah, they eventually learn, is Sylvie's boyfriend from the facility, a schizophrenic who plays a torturous series of psychological games with the couple that bring dark family histories to light. Thayer (Strong for Potatoes
    ; A Certain Slant of Light
    ) underplays the more lurid aspects of her story line, choosing instead to generate tension with dialogue and taut, well-crafted scenes as Carl and Jessie try to escape and Jonah's behavior careens toward deadly violence. Sylvie's eerie presence hovers in the background throughout, and the climax features a revelation about Carl that completely changes Jessie's impression of her protective, gentle husband. The dark suspense in this concentrated psychological character study makes for a genuine page-turner. Agent, Sandy Choron.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2005
    Carl and Jessie are retired professionals whose daily routine is shattered when they invite into their home a young man, Jonah, who may know their daughter. What begins as a helpful gesture to a stranger turns into a horrifying invasion when Jessie and Carl find themselves held hostage. Jonah has psychological issues as complex as those of Jessie and Carl's daughter, now missing from her residential psychiatric facility. Thayer (A Certain Slant of Light) tells the story in the alternating voices of Jessie and Carl, who are forced to confront their own demons. The strength of the novel lies in the complexity of Carl's well-developed character as it explores the relationship between his experience in a concentration camp and his current reality as a hostage of another sort. Jessie's weaker character teeters between fond memories of her daughter and a curious disassociation with the challenges of her daughter's illness. A competently written book that delves into the distinctions between sanity and madness, this lacks the spark that would truly capture a reader's interest. Recommended only where interest warrants.-Caroline M. Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont.

    Copyright 2005 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    January 1, 2005
    Carl and Jessie Jensen are enjoying their retirement in the remote reaches of Maine until a stranded camper named Jonah arrives at their front door. While the kindhearted couple senses menace in the young man's eyes, they invite him to stay for dinner and spend the night. (Both wonder if Jonah is a friend of their mentally troubled daughter, Sylvie, who escaped from an area psychiatric home earlier that day.) The Jensens' worst fears are confirmed the following morning, as Jonah takes the pair hostage, insistent that he is fulfilling the wishes of God. The simmering scenario reaches a rolling boil as Jonah forces Carl, a French Gypsy who survived the Nazi concentration camps, to explain the patchwork of scars on his back and the German inscription on his violin. Jessie, meanwhile, plays mind games with Jonah as she furiously searches for a means of escape. Maine resident Thayer--" Strong for Potatoes " (1999)" , A Certain Slant of Light " (2001)--creates relentless suspense in this taut literary chiller that pits the mad against the sane. (Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2005, American Library Association.)

  • Booklist

    "Thayer creates relentless suspense in this taut literary chiller that pits the mad against the sane."

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A Novel
Cynthia Thayer
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