She was fifteen when she visited the therapist; still a teen when they had sex. She was twenty-five when she married him and forty-four when she killed him.
In October 2002, the quiet northern California town of Orinda was rocked by murder when Susan Polk, the mother of three teenage boys, was arrested for stabbing her husband and former therapist, Dr. Felix Polk, to death. The arrest and subsequent trial quickly became one of the most talked about murder cases in the country, as spectators and reporters learned the strange history behind this shocking killing.
Now in Seduced by Madness, Carol Pogash—the leading journalist working the case—has written the definitive account of the Polk family saga, offering a rich and textured re-creation of this disturbing and tragic American tale. Examining the decadent culture of California in the 1970s, Pogash looks at how, in this period of drugs and sexual exploration, a fifteen-year-old Susan found herself caught in the grasp of Felix, her therapist—who, like others in the mental health profession, fell for every passing trend in mental health therapy. Culled from years of careful research, Pogash reconstructs the vague beginnings of the couple's sexual relationship in the therapist's office, exploring how Felix's relaxed attitude toward therapy blinded him to the complex nature of Susan's mental state, and how their mutual obsession with each other sealed their fate.
With lyrical prose, Pogash skillfully traces the Polks' story—from their early yearnings for one another through their flawed marriage, which produced three highly intelligent but emotionally divided sons. Weaving a complex narrative of a family who lived in multimillion dollar homes but lingered in the shadow of dysfunction, Pogash reassembles their life in the years and months before Felix's death, intimately describing what led this soft-spoken wife to murder.
Three years after Felix's death, Susan Polk was tried for first degree murder, and here Pogash provides a first-hand account of the wild, media-circus trial in which Susan defended herself and cross-examined two of her sons. Illustrating how the prosecution and the court responded to Susan's volatile behavior, Pogash takes you inside the deliberation room and uncovers how jurors reached their surprising verdict.
Filled with the most complete case facts and interviews available, Seduced by Madness offers an unparalleled look at one of the most captivating murder cases in recent years.
Journalist Pogash recounts and analyzes the story of Susan Polk in a riveting summation of both her life and her sensational trial for the 2002 murder of her husband, Felix Polk. In 1972, when Susan was a bright, troubled 15-year-old, skipping school, spending long hours alone reading serious fiction, she began an intense form of therapy with Polk, a respected and brilliant Berkeley therapist who specialized in adolescence. At some disputed point during the therapy, they began an affair and Felix, 25 years her senior, left his wife and children to marry her in 1981. Pogash, in fairness, points out the liberal therapy theories of the post '60s (Felix was an est follower), but the early inappropriate relationship between Susan and Felix would weigh heavily on their marriage and figure prominently in the murder trial. They had three boys (two of whom testified against their mother) and claimed their eldest, Adam, was subjected to abuse and satanic rituals in the California preschool scandal of the '80s. While the background is fascinating, the coverage of the trial is mesmerizing. Pogash takes the characters the two DAs, the headline-grabbing defense attorney, Susan (after the attorney's departure from the case) acting as her own counsel, the jury, the courtroom groupies and creates an edge-of-your-seat excitement. For fans of true crime, psychology, courtroom drama and truth-is- stranger-than fiction, this is a triumph.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Seduced by Madness
A very long (1,400+ ePages), compelling, excellent book that I read straight through. It's the saddest story of the inevitable consequences of a therapist having a personal relationship with a patient. Heartbreaking!
I cried like a baby over his death & its manner. The trial was fascinating - and I'm a retired Criminal Defense attorney! There were several places where the writing didn't make sense, but those instances were infrequent & did not detract from the book at all. I almost feel as if there was no other possible way this relationship could conclude.
Not Bad... not good
With many true-crime books, I start reading and can't put them down. I'm sometimes disappointed when I'm finished. That wasn't the case here. It immediately starts off with the crime and from there I felt it was very repetitive. Mostly telling the same story of how the trial dragged on and on, with a lot boring daily back and forth interaction between the prosecution and the defense. I wouldn't go as far as giving it less than three stars but if I had one great book to recommend to a friend, it wouldn't be this one.