Kathy Ryan #3: Inside the Asylum – Mary SanGiovanni

What happens when your imaginary friends are no longer satisfied living in the world you created? What if they want to live in yours instead?

When Kathy Ryan interviews a patient at Connecticut-Newlyn Hospital for the Criminally Insane she learns about Henry’s friends. The staff dismiss them as hallucinations but Kathy thinks otherwise.

Henry only survived the horrific abuse of his childhood with the help of Maisie, Orrin, Edgar and the Others. Henry’s friends’ lives started in his imagination and they lived in Ayteilu, the world he created. Unlike your normal garden variety imaginary friends, Henry’s have seriously levelled up.

They’re tulpas, “sentient and more or less autonomous beings brought about by the use of the mind.” If, like me, you haven’t heard of these before, Google can tell you all about them. While I found the entire phenomenon fascinating and Mary SanGiovanni takes this concept much further than I hope is ever possible, I cannot stress this enough: Do NOT try this at home!!!

Kathy’s investigation forces her to interact with her brother, Toby, another Connecticut-Newlyn patient. Awkward! And suitably creepy. I was eager to learn more about Kathy’s history after reading my first Kathy Ryan book, Behind the Door, and my wish was certainly granted in this book. I can handle all the book blood spatter and gore an author throws at me, but this part of the story was genuinely horrifying. It answered my questions from the previous book and was so well done. I hesitate to say that I loved it but it felt right, given what I already knew of Kathy, and it caused a visceral reaction in me.

While I had so much fun reading about Kathy’s previous investigation in Zarepath, this investigation blew me away. I loved the setting, the characters (especially Ernie), the action, the interaction between characters and the imaginative ways Henry’s friends interact with our world.

You do not want to be cast as a character in one of Mary SanGiovanni’s novels. If you actually make it out of the book alive (chances are you won’t and your death will be suitably gruesome) you will not be unchanged by the experience. Nightmares, severe trauma and a massive therapy bill will be amongst your prizes for surviving.

If you are squeamish, this book is not for you. If, however, you love the kind of horror that spills enough blood to make The Shining’s river feel more like a trickle and you want to jump up and down with perverse glee when a horror story character’s insides become their outsides, then this is definitely right up your alley. If you’re not convinced yet, you will also come face to (sort of) face with such awesomeness as a rampaging vending machine and flying lawn mowers!

I wasn’t a fan of the derogatory terms used regarding mental illness in this book by the main character, police officers and some of the staff at the asylum, including crazies, mad, nutjob and loony bin but the majority of the offenders die, so there’s that. Content warnings include mental illness, child abuse, torture, rape and murder.

While this story ends in a way that could be a satisfying conclusion to the series I really hope there’s more to come. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, for the opportunity to read this book. Five blood soaked stars from me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kathy has been hired to assess the threat of patient Henry Banks, an inmate at the Connecticut-Newlyn Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the same hospital where her brother is housed. Her employers believe that Henry has the ability to open doors to other dimensions with his mind-making him one of the most dangerous men in modern history. Because unbeknownst to Kathy, her clients are affiliated with certain government organizations that investigate people like Henry-and the potential to weaponise such abilities.

What Kathy comes to understand in interviewing Henry, and in her unavoidable run-ins with her brother, is that Henry can indeed use his mind to create “Tulpas”-worlds, people, and creatures so vivid they come to actual life. But now they want life outside of Henry. And they’ll stop at nothing to complete their emancipation. It’s up to Kathy-with her brother’s help-to stop them, and if possible, to save Henry before the Tulpas take him over-and everything else around him.

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