He Counts Their Tears
by Mary Ann D'Alto
Dog Ear Publishing

"So, the way a hunter surveyed the woods for an animal to shoot, so Aaron constantly perused his surroundings for perfect prey."

Behind his flawless facade of a charismatic, good-looking doctor, Aaron Stein is a vicious monster. Hungry for power and control, he enacts fake relationships with women just for the pleasure of discarding them. His cruel games, however, suddenly go awry, threatening to reveal his inner madness to the world. Feeling powerless, he turns to his loyal cousin, Constance, who will do anything to suppress their sinister secrets and save him.

D'Alto brilliantly explores the dark, twisted mind of a psychopath. Using Aaron's romantic encounters with numerous women, D'Alto creates awareness of the damaging effects of psychological abuse, while also focusing on the intricacies of Aaron's instability. These include lack of emotions, perverted sadism, vindictive attitude, pathological lying, and superiority complex. While Aaron's personality disorder may have been born from the decisions and actions of his overprotective parents, it's his complicated relationship with Constance that brings out his only vulnerable side. That devotion from guilt can sustain—and destroy—is portrayed through the brilliant and good-hearted Constance. Her decisions to save Aaron at any cost—even through murder—are highly shocking.

The analytical narrative moves through every character and situation with surgical precision, while the overall grim tone creates claustrophobia and fear. Through the despair, grief, and confusion of Aaron's rejected victims whom he abruptly discards, D'Alto captures the sheer terror of being trapped in a manipulative, stunted relationship. Especially heartbreaking is the predicament of Ruth, Aaron's wife and "Love Slave," who has lost all independent capacity to think and feel due to Aaron's cruelty. The endless mind games become so harrowing that it's a relief when strong characters like Marie and Mirelle stand up to Aaron. This is a well-researched, intelligent thriller that also becomes a cautionary tale.

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