By Patrick McGrath
224 pages. Knopf.
Read one page—one sentence—of Trauma (Knopf), Patrick McGrath's new novel, and you'll be hooked by this elegant psychological thriller set in the gritty, pre-gentrification Manhattan of the 1970s. McGrath's hero, Charlie Weir, is a psychiatrist specializing in trauma victims. His fatal misjudgment in the treatment of one of his patients, a damaged Vietnam War veteran, has had disastrous consequences for his family and his marriage. Divorced, desperately lonely, haunted by the ghosts of his own deeply troubled upbringing, Charlie becomes romantically involved with his ex-wife and with an attractive and dangerously unstable woman whom he meets through his brother. Nothing is quite what it seems, and no one (or almost no one) proves to be completely trustworthy as events rapidly spiral out of Charlie's control, and as his attempt to escape the chaos around him leads him to uncover a series of dark and terrifying secrets about his own past. At once a gripping mystery and a meditation on how little it takes to reopen the scars inflicted in childhood, Trauma reminds you of how satisfying it is to be unable to put a book down—and then, when it's over, to be sorry and relieved to reenter your own comparatively unhaunted life.