||Dec 20, 2007
Snapping the String is the second book of The Ascension Trilogy. In this tale, Peyton Costello languishes away in a secure forensic unit of a mental institution accused of murdering his parents. While incarcerated, his consciousness is splintered. He tethers himself to the faint hope that one day he will be exonerated from this horrific crime. Peyton must pull himself back into reality, or the thinly stretched string will snap, and he'll be lost forever.
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Snapping the String
A failed mental health care system is the backdrop for one man’s chilling story of accusation and redemption in Robert Paul Blumenstein’s new novel Snapping the String, the second book in The Ascension Trilogy, just published by Outskirts Press.
Young Peyton Costello discovers his parents brutally murdered. After the police arrive to find a blood-soaked Peyton out of his mind, he’s fingered as the prime suspect. He must be declared competent to stand trial, a process that lands him inside a secure forensic unit of the Mid-Virginia Mental Hospital. While there, Peyton languishes away for more than two decades receiving treatment—an endless cocktail of tranquilizers and bizarre medical “therapies”—that’s supposed to make him sane.
Through it all, Peyton experiences the entire realm of human consciousness while attempting to maintain a hold on the reality of his innocence. Yet what would happen if he were declared sane and brought to trial? Who would believe him? How would he cope with freedom after so long in custody? And who is responsible for the grisly death of his parents?
“I hope this story will give a voice to those souls abandoned inside the hospital wards who yearned for nothing more than freedom,” Blumenstein says.
Snapping the String also challenges traditional constructs of health and medicine by proposing that herbal treatments can be more effective than a factory’s worth of brand-name pharmaceuticals—reinforcing the need to preserve our rain forests, a prime repository of current and future herbal medicines.
Set primarily in and around Richmond, VA, Snapping the String is a disturbing ride that takes readers inside the rarely seen mental health world with its internal intrigue and dysfunctional cast of characters. Also in the mix is courtroom drama and international adventure, which makes Snapping the String truly a psycho-thriller with something to entice readers of all appetites.
"Your Honor," Peyton said, "I have but one goal and that is to prove my innocence. My goal does not include vengeance. My resolve is forgiveness. Until I am able to establish my innocence, I cannot know who to forgive. I only ask that you do the right thing and give me my day in court."
Graphic, Revealing Dialogue- Alternate Reality Imagery
Subject: An emotional, mind awakening, fictional adventure— Blumenstein's second novel of "The Ascension Trilogy." Peyton Costello is sent to a forensic unit of a mental institution. He must not lose the string of hope that one day he will be found innocent of his parents’ deaths. The plot and theme mirror real life events the author experienced while working with Virginia's program for freeing qualified inmates from a regional mental hospital.
Noteworthy: The start: "In a gadda da vida— Bump, bump. Zip! Balls of light had crashed on the ground..." Blumenstein’s graphic, alternate reality imagery and revealing dialogue will keep readers glued to the pages. The author’s uplifting theme and the karmic redress and retribution plot is interwoven with chilling, mind-boggling, polarized action. The work is timely, reflecting today's corporate manipulation of individuals. A great movie prospect.
Bernie P. Nelson, Senior Editor for The Mindquest Review of Books, Fall Edition, 2008
Book Room Reviews and Library Thing by Brent Higgins
There’s literary fiction and there's genre fiction, and then there’s Robert Paul Blumenstein’s new novel, Snapping the String, which draws from nearly every genre out there. The publishers blurb, “a chilling psycho-thriller,” will definitely draw the attention of psycho-thriller fans, but what about fans of outright horror, Southern-gothic grotesquerie, magical realism, romance, religious fiction, Bildungsroman (albeit a uniquely belated Bildungsroman), mystery, hardboiled detective noir, adventure, or social commentary a la One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl, Interrupted? Snapping the String definitely deserves an audience beyond that of the thriller aficionado.
I like Blumenstein’s concise, uncomplicated descriptions. Detailing Peyton Costello’s hallucination from an acid trip (which is how we’re introduced to our, at first impression, dubious hero), Blumenstein writes, “the walls inflated, then deflated,” which gave me a perfect visual, like something surreal out of Alice In Wonderland. When Peyton releases his distraught embrace from his dead father propped up in bed, we get a macabre snippet any vintage King or Lovecraft lover would enjoy, “Then his dad’s head rolled forward and fell from his neck….His father’s head tumbled to the floor, bounced once, twice, and then rolled to a rest.”
As bad as witnessing the gruesome aftermath of decapitation, imagine how bad it would be being falsely accused of murdering your parents and spending the next twenty-two years of your life unjustly jailed at the Mid-Virginia Mental Hospital, undergoing regular electroconvulsive “therapy” and taking so many unnecessary drug cocktails that your average junkie’s habit might look like aspirin-therapy in comparison. Welcome to Peyton Costello’s wasted world. And never mind that Peyton does not have a mental disorder (that’s beside the point to the vindictive psychiaquacks at Mid-Virginia); Peyton just better be sure he doesn’t tick off the wrong mental health professional or she’s bound to recommend, besides a frontal l lobotomy, a “Second Surgical Procedure”: castration, because, “‘I don’t see what further use Mr. Costello has for his gonads.’” Does Blumenstein grind his axe too sharply in his commentary of the evils perpetrated inside psych-hospitals against mental health patients as late as the mid-1980s? I’d say yes at first glance, but since I’ve read so many non-fictional accounts concerning the abuses, how could I justifiably say no? Perhaps I could say yes to, at times, the narrative feels mildly didactic, preachy, but it’s mostly preaching to the choir.
Peyton’s surprising release from Mid-Virginia portrayed enough drama that it could have served a viable climax to Snapping the String, but then we’d always wonder who killed Peyton’s parents. Blumenstein compellingly keeps us in suspense, whizzing us first into the jungles of Belize, beloved by his father (and where Peyton grabs a native wife, Oriana), on to Egypt and inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, where Peyton and his long-lost friend, Ishmael, discover the first real clues – mysterious apparitions – directing them to a holy man, and to the terrible secret he’s been hiding behind a bookshelf for years.
More Than I Expected
In Snapping the String, Robert Paul Blumenstein has written a brilliant book. He tells the story of Peyton Costello, an unlucky soul who found himself at the wrong time and wrong place becoming the fall guy for the murderers of his parents.
Young Peyton was a high school druggie from Richmond, Virginia, who was stoned on LSD when he came upon the murder scene and due to his erratic behavior the police sent him to the mental hospital where he languished for twenty-two years before getting the chance to clear his name. To sort his life out Peyton Costello has to travel a bit to the US West Coast, Belize and Egypt chasing not just the missing clues of the crime but also discovering his father’s past.
If there was a weakness in the story I felt it was the surprise ending. The real culprit was introduced to us pretty much when Peyton found out who this person was. I feel that had this person been introduced a bit earlier in the story the ending would have been even more powerful. But overall this book is fast paced and definitely holds the reader’s interest. By reading the cover I found that Snapping the String is part of a trilogy, which is called “The Ascension Trilogy.” To me it did not matter that I had not read the first book of this trilogy, which was titled Flirtin' with Jesus. Blumenstein’s Snapping the String stands alone on its own merits. In fact, simply knowing that there are more volumes makes me willing to keep reading more of Robert Paul Blumenstein’s work.
I recommend if you like thrillers that you read this book and look out for Flirtin' with Jesus as well.
Reviewed by Gary Dale Cearley, Bookpleasures, August 15, 2008.
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