The Madman's Tale

Front Cover
Random House Publishing Group, Jun 15, 2004 - Fiction - 448 pages
3 Reviews
It’s been twenty years since Western State Hospital was closed down and the last of its inmates reintegrated into society. Francis Petrel was barely out of his teens when his family committed him to the asylum, after his erratic behavior culminated in a terrifying outburst. Now middle-aged, he leads an aimless, solitary life housed in a cheap apartment, periodically tended to by his sisters, and perpetually medicated to quiet the chorus of voices in his head. But a reunion on the grounds of the shuttered institution stirs something deep in Francis’s troubled mind: dark memories he thought he had laid to rest, about the grisly events that led to Western State Hospital’s demise.

It begins in 1979, when twenty-one-year-old Petrel descends into the state-run purgatory of an overcrowded, understaffed Massachusetts mental hospital. Surrounded by inmates roaming the halls like drugged zombies and raving behind locked doors, well-meaning orderlies, jaded nurses, and patronizing doctors, Francis finds friendship with a motley assortment of fellow patients: a would-be Napoleon, a wise ex-firefighter, and a man obsessed with battling imagined devils. But there’s nothing imaginary about the young nurse found sexually assaulted and brutally murdered late one night after lights-out.

The police suspect an inmate, while patients whisper about visions of a white-shrouded “angel.” But the striking and mysterious prosecuting attorney who arrives to investigate has her own chilling theory—about the grim, telltale “signature” left on the victim’s body, a string of unsolved sex killings, and a very real devil who, by chance or design, has come to turn a madhouse into a slaughterhouse.

Now, with the past creeping back to haunt his thoughts, and nothing but a pencil and the bare walls of his bleak apartment, Francis surrenders to the overwhelming need to tell the story of those nightmarish days. But because the crime was never solved, it’s a story doomed to remain unfinished. Until, like Francis’s long-buried recollections, the killer resurfaces . . . with a vengeance.

A tour de force narrative journey through the eerily unpredictable mind of an utterly unusual hero, The Madman’s Tale will keep even the most astute thriller reader uncertain, unnerved, and unable to resist the tantalizing twists and turns of this fiendishly suspenseful shadow show.

From the Hardcover edition.

What people are saying - Write a review

The madman's tale: a novel

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

When Francis Petrel, a former inmate of the Western State Hospital, returns for a commemoration, he begins to remember events surrounding the brutal rape and murder of a young nurse 20 years before ... Read full review

Review: The Madman's Tale: A Novel

User Review  - Julia - Goodreads

First book by John Katzenbach I read and it was a real page-turner. Smart, surprising and not the typical thriller it tells the story of a mentally ill man writing down the story of his life. Definity a good read! Read full review

All 3 reviews »

Selected pages


chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 20
chapter 21
chapter 22
chapter 23
chapter 24
chapter 25
chapter 26
chapter 27

chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10
chapter 11
chapter 12
chapter 13
chapter 14
chapter 15
chapter 16
chapter 17
chapter 18
chapter 19
chapter 28
chapter 29
chapter 30
chapter 31
chapter 32
chapter 33
chapter 34
chapter 35
chapter 36
About the Author

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

John Katzenbach has written eight previous novels: the Edgar Award–nominated In the Heat of the Summer, which was adapted for the screen as The Mean Season; the New York Times bestseller The Traveler; Day of Reckoning; Just Cause, which was also made into a movie; The Shadow Man (another Edgar nominee); State of Mind; Hart’s War, which was also a major motion picture; and The Analyst. Katzenbach has been a criminal court reporter for The Miami Herald and Miami News and a featured writer for the Herald’s Tropic magazine. He lives in western Massachusetts.

From the Hardcover edition.

Bibliographic information