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Panic Attack Hardcover – August 4, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A bungled burglary sparks Starr's darkly humorous crime thriller. Carlos Sanchez wasn't expecting anyone to be home, much less have an entire clip emptied into him as he reached the top of the stairs of the brownstone he breaks into in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens. The gun-wielding psychologist, Adam Bloom, is almost equally surprised—instead of being hailed as a hero for defending his wife and daughter in his own home, the media vilify him as a crazed vigilante for using all 10 bullets. Even worse, the sociopathic Johnny Long, going along with his pal Carlos for an easy score, decides to make the Blooms pay in more blood for the incident after he escapes into the night. Targeting the wife and daughter, the vainly handsome Long may be a delicious bit of self-parody by the photogenic author, who remains unexcelled in portraying self-involved New Yorkers. Funny and suspenseful, this novel is Starr delightfully at the top of his game. Author tour.(Aug.)
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Psychotherapist Adam Bloom, wife Dana, and daughter Marissa seem to have it all: financial security, a lovely home in a leafy enclave in New York City, a loyal housekeeper, and each other. But Marissa has returned to the nest after graduation from Vassar full of angst about her future, and Adam and Dana do little but lacerate each other. Their privileged, neurotic lives are completely upended when Adam shoots a burglar who has entered their home. Cops, ravening media, Dana’s loathing of Adam’s gun, and the possibility that a second burglar may seek revenge turn Bloom family dynamics toxic—and deadly. Starr’s plotting is elaborate, and his development of principal characters is deft and detailed. The marital antagonisms will likely strike a chord with almost anyone who has been married for two decades. The problem is that the Blooms and the other characters are totally self-absorbed and not terribly interesting; Panic Attack is well put together, but crime fans usually want someone to root for. --Thomas Gaughan
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The Blooms have more than their share of troubles: After twenty-three years of marriage, Adam and Dana are no longer emotionally or physically close. Dana, who is a bored housewife, believes that her husband is too self-absorbed to care about her feelings and that that he is more interested in his practice than he is in her. She also detests Adam's condescension and frequent use of psychobabble to put her in her place. Although Adam loves Marissa, he is fed up with her. After completing her studies at Vassar in art history, she returns to her parents' home, acquires tattoos, puts pink streaks in her hair, and spends most of her time hanging out with friends. She has made no realistic plans to find a job that would enable her to live independently. Her father constantly squabbles with Marissa, ordering her to get her act together.
Starr has written an electrifying and well-constructed novel with a sociopathic villain who is all the more sinister because he is so handsome and charming. He finds a way to insinuate himself into the lives of this troubled family with disastrous consequences. However, "Panic Attack" is more than an excruciatingly suspenseful and fast-paced thriller. It is also a distressing portrait of a father, mother, and daughter who can no longer speak to one another without rancor. Bloom may have some talent as a clinician, but he is a deeply flawed husband and father with a hair-trigger temper. Dana makes serious errors in judgment that come back to haunt her, and to round out this dysfunctional trio, Marissa's selfishness and irresponsibility complete her family's descent into free fall. As imperfect as they are, however, these three people do not deserve to have a vicious and sadistic killer manipulate them and use their vulnerabilities against them. Reading the exciting and unpredictable "Panic Attack" is like watching a terrible car crash. We know that we should not stare, but it is difficult to look away.
I already thought he was pretty cool after I read The Chill, a graphic novel he wrote for Vertigo, but I was slightly biased because I pretty much love everything Vertigo gets on ink. While I liked the story, The Chill wasn't horribly memorable to me...but it did have boobies. Lots and lots of boobies.
This book reads extremely fast! I kept telling myself "only one more paragraph" up until the point where I'm like "ok I can finish the chapter, no problem" and then I'd have to look away from the book before I started reading again.
The dynamics between the Blooms was pleasant to read. It was nice to read a family that actually sounds like a family! (The fact that Marissa has no job after college graduation was quite realistic, especially these days.) They aren't the Sopranos but they aren't the ****ing Cleavers either: The Blooms have problems. Like you, like me.
On top of of that, they seem miserable and full of contempt in almost every page. One feeling that I really touched with was that idea where just when things are starting to get better, BAM! the floor drops and the downfall begins. You never get the feeling that they were never happy; just that it is difficult in this current year of their lives to seek an equilibrium. Though they try so hard after someone attempts to rob their house, and Adam blows him away.
The villain of this story also was quite believable and his pages seemed to be the ones I read the fastest. You start to sympathize with what he is doing to the point where it is like "Whoa, why was I rooting for this man?!" I had no problems understanding all the actions he took, because Starr did such a fine job giving us the minute details of the dude.
I know (filmmaker)David Fincher has acquired the rights for this book, and I have to say I will go see this if it is adapted. I don't think I will read it again so that's why it gets four stars from me. Amazing story, and I do recommend it for anyone who loves a thriller (which I'm hoping is anyone who reads books).