Book Review: The Mask of Sanity by Jacob M. Appel

In the foreward the author writes, “I have come to know a number of individuals who wear what the late Hervey M. Cleckley, once
the world’s foremost authority on sociopathy, termed “The Mask of Sanity,” yet at their cores proved incapable of feeling empathy or compassion for their fellow human beings. What follows is an effort to capture as authentically as possible the mind-set of one such miscreant.”

What follows is a deeply disturbing, compelling, well-written examination of the world from the point of view of what can only be described as a well-socialized sociopath. The protagonist is all the more frightening for being, from all outward indications, so well adjusted and both professionally and personally successful.

Balint, is not an outsized evil genius, nor is he a mustache twirling villain. He has no basement filled with grotesque trophies. You don’t wonder why none of his neighbours realized the evil that lived next door. He is a successful doctor who loves his wife and children. And granted his premises his actions seem logical and even obvious.

Fair warning, the book doesn’t “let you off the hook” by having the protagonist act in ways that allow you, the reader, to feel assured that you would not be deceived by Balint were you his colleague. You are left with the disturbing sense that perhaps you too have worked next to, or even collaborated with, a sociopath.

Appel’s writing style is perfectly tuned to the task at hand. I literally didn’t stop reading after what I had intended on being an initial quick glance at the foreward until I started to see double from tiredness and realized I had read the first 189 pages at one clip.

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