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The specter of mental illness is frightening enough on its own. In the hands of the master of suspense, Dean Koontz, it's both epidemic and horrifying. Never has the saying "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" been more true. And never has fear been so, well, frightening.
In False Memory, a bone-chilling tale of fantasies, phobias, and false memories, Koontz has crafted yet another masterpiece of subtle terror, an all-too-plausible tale with the most powerful and devious of enemies -- one's own mind.
Martie Rhodes is married to a man she adores and has a successful career as a video-game designer and a life many would envy. But there are a few hitches. Once a week, Martie escorts her best friend, Susan, to a psychiatrist's office, where Susan receives treatment for the severe case of agoraphobia that suddenly took over her life 18 months before. And Martie's husband, Dusty, has a younger brother who is sweet, naive, and addicted to drugs.
Still, Martie's life is relatively stable until the morning she awakens with a sudden and inexplicable fear of her own. It is a fear unlike any she has ever encountered or even considered. It is a fear she may not be able to control. It is a fear of the one thing she should be able to master but can't. It is a fear of herself.
It begins innocently enough with a sense of disquiet that Martie experiences while walking the dog, an odd feeling of fright when she sees her own shadow. But things quickly escalate, and within hours, horrifying images fill Martie's mind, images of blood and violence committed by her own hands, committed against herself and the one person she loves most: her husband, Dusty.
Martie soon learns that her condition has a name: autophobia. When she shares her fears with her husband, Dusty finds himself torn. On the one hand he is desperate to be there for Martie, to learn the cause of her mental condition and try to find a way to fight it. On the other hand there is his brother, Skeet, whose recent backslide has led to a suicide attempt -- a harrowing scene that nearly costs Dusty his life as well.
It's while caring for his poor, drug-addled brother that Dusty accidentally stumbles upon a quirk, a quirk that suggests Skeet's problems may not all be of his own making. When Dusty discovers that the same quirk may be behind Martie's mental illness, he is thrown into a nightmare of astonishing proportions. To save those he loves, Dusty must confront a monster whose power over him, Skeet, and Martie is unthinkable, a monster who has already destroyed dozens of lives and thinks nothing of racking up a few more.
Koontz has tapped into the most fertile and terrifying source possible for psychological suspense -- the human mind. As the filter that defines all we see, all we experience, and all we are, it is what makes us most vulnerable to both harm and evil. But its capacity for love combined with the will to survive can also be a formidable weapon. The fear of madness lurks within us all. Leave it to the master of suspense to capitalize on that fear and turn it into yet another deliciously chilling and haunting tale.