Sidney Sheldon's first novel The Naked Face (1970) is a pretty decent read. It's simple, and straight-forward - not nearly as multi-faceted as some of his later works. But still a reasonably well put together murder mystery.
Psychoanalyst Dr. Stevens is having a bad week. First, one of his patients is killed. Then his secretary is killed. And now, it seems as if the Doc is the next target. Worse, the police don't believe he's in danger at all; they seem determined to hang the patient's and the secretary's murders on him, rather than helping to protect him.
Who could possibly want the Doc dead? That's what he needs to find out, and quickly, before he becomes the next victim.
It's a pretty simple plot, not too many twists and turns, and no subplots. Just a basic, straight-line story. The doctor attempts to figure out which, if any, of his patients might have some reason to do him in. So he goes back and re-listens to his session tapes. As we, the readers, listen along with the doc, we get to "know" a few of his patients, and develop our own theories about what might be going on.
Some might find the transcripts from the tapes to be dull reading. I didn't mind it. I thought it was pretty interesting to "listen in" to the sessions. Along the way, I kept wondering if there were some hidden meaning behind the actual words being said, a meaning that would shed some light on this mystery.
One can not complain about the lack of action in this book. In fact, there are several chase scenes and near-misses that leave our Doctor quite shaken. And, pretty much anyone who gets close to the Doc ends up dead. So this book is definitely not boring.
Bear in mind that this book was written over 35 years ago. As a result, there are portions that are certainly dated. Most particularly there are gay characters in the book who are treated none too kindly. There is a definite bias displayed by some individuals against the homosexual community.
Pros:Intriguing mystery, with a satisfying ending.
Cons:It's a simple story - not nearly as wondefully complex as his later novels.
The Bottom Line:It's a decent read, considering it's Sheldon's debut novel.
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