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The SyndromeReview - The Syndrome
A Thriller
by John Case
Ballantine, 2001
Review by Su Terry
Nov 2nd 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 44)

John Case's The Syndrome is a fast paced thriller about international terrorist. It will keep the reader awake long into the night listening to every creak and groan and for sounds that creep just on the edge of hearing. My introduction to The Syndrome began with dinner the night of September 11th. Still unaware of the whos, whys, and wherefores of the day, my husband discussed the events and he related the following interesting theory to me. During the Cold War, it was believed that the Communist had hypnotized key Americans to commit atrocities and acts of terrorism in response to post-hypnotic cues. These individuals were so programmed that they were not even aware of it themselves. "Perfectly innocent people were thought to be walking timebombs just waiting for their cue to explode." If this idea intrigues you, then you must read this book.

The book begins with a series of seemingly disjointed vignettes. In Zurich, a young anthropologist studying totem worship named Lew McBride has his face removed by his paternalistic advisor. In a posh Florida resort, Nico Sullivan, a beautiful party girl assassinates an elderly man dying from cancer and confined to a wheelchair. In Washington, D.C., Henrick de Groot complains to his hynotherapist that the worm living in his heart is sending him racial hate messages. His hynotherapist, Jeff Duran, is confined to his apartment building by debilitating agoraphobia. What is the common link between these events and people?

When Nico commits suicide, her sister, Adrienne Cope, is determined to find out why. When her will leaves half of her estate to Dr. Jeff Duran, the hypnotherapist who convinced her she was sexual molested by Satanists as a child, Adrienne goes "ballistic." She hires a detective to find anything and everything that might undermine Duran's practice. What she finds out is more than she bargains for and when two "goons" in trenchcoats arrive with guns blazing she realizes that some information can be very dangerous to know. Thus begins a non-stop chase across America and around the world where anyone might be the enemy…even your closest friend.

"John Case" is the pseudonym for Jim and Carolyn Hougan. Jim is an investigative reporter and Carolyn is a novelist. The Syndrome is the third joint writing venture for this husband and wife writing team. Jim's previous research on the U.S. Intelligence Service makes this work ring true. The scientific background is laid out in great detail, but presented in an absolutely fascinating way. (I am not sure if any of it is possible or not, and I am not sure that I want to know!) The characters are also well-developed. This must not have been an easy writing task since not all the characters are exactly who or what they seem to be while other characters move in and out of personalities adding additional complication. The best feature of the book is its perfect blend of terror and humor. (A characteristic for success in common with William Shakespeare and Steven Speilberg.) Some of the minor characters add wonderful comic relief in contrast to the seeming evil or goodness of the main characters. Ramon, the doorman, aspires to be a movie star so he practices his voices and routines on arriving and departing guests. There are two nameless gunmen, stereotypical goons, who would best be described as "dumb and dumber." In a like vein, they pay amazing attention to bizarre details. This adds a unique flavor to the novel. It is hard to forget Nico's lime green gun case with its fluffy pink pompoms or Adrienne's rental car from hell that had a magnetic attraction for parking tickets.

The Syndrome is a wonderful and scary read. Wonderful in writing that alternates from nail-biting terror to laugh out loud comedy. It is scary in its extreme timeliness. This book will make you think about the potential for new forms of terrorism. Mental timebombs make nuclear and chemical weapons look like child's play. If you want to see the new frontier of terrorism, read this book, if you dare, and be scared.

© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry

Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.

Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted" female Christian mystics and additional biographical information, I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having "vision" on or about the age of 40!


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