State of Mind
by John Katzenbach

Ballantine: 1997
$24.00, 416 pp.

Review by Harriet Klausner

A quarter of a century ago when Jeffrey Clayton was nine years old and living in New Jersey, his father apparently was accused of being a murderer. The man was freed due to a technicality caused by an abrogation of his constitutional rights. Allegedly, Jeffrey's father later killed himself. Jeffrey, his mother, and his sister Susan flee to the Keys to start a new life.

Sometime in the near future from now, Jeffrey is a criminology professor, who is an expert on serial killers. He is also afraid of his violent students, so he refuses to fail anyone. Agent Martin visits Jeffrey to enlist his help because a serial killer has emerged using the same MO that his father was supposed to have employed. At the same time in the Keys, Susan, an expert cryptologist, receives a coded message that she deciphers. It tells her that her father has returned and plans to come after his three living relatives. Jeffrey, Susan, and their disabled mother join forces to try and catch the killer before he can make them his next victim.

John Katzenbach writes a refreshing serial killer thriller that has two new twists in what has become a hackneyed sub-genre. In STATE OF MIND, Mr. Katzenbach places his story in a violent future where a safe zone is being carved out of several western states as the fifty-first state. In addition, the premise of the son probably hunting his own father adds a unique perspective. Though the ending is obvious, the story line is fast-paced and thorough, leading to an intriguing novel, starring a scarred family and a serial killer, who may or may not be the patriarch.

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