I’m scum. Yes, I always have been. . . . I know what I did, and what I should have done.
A spellbinding and provocative psychological thriller that shows just how far a man will go to win the most enduring and ruthless of games: the game of power.
Raised in the upper echelons of elite New York society, Thomas Spencer has never wanted for much. But much is hardly enough for a man whose greatest satisfaction lies in shattering the happiness of others. Thomas, the black sheep of his family, harbors only resentment toward those closest to him for what they have more of: good looks, good cheer, good social graces. But what Thomas may lack in charm, he makes up for in cunning. And it is this that will serve him best when he trades in his glittering world of privilege for a chance to claw his way to the top—on his own terms, and at any cost. As Thomas achieves fame and success as an ad man, he becomes ever more deeply entrenched in an insidious underworld of media, politics, and women, and an astonishing picture emerges of a complex, destructive personality who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Shameless and electrifying, Story of a Sociopath illuminates the true nature of power through the mind of a master psychological manipulator.
As thick as the DSM, Navarro's (The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud) latest is a loose, baggy monster about a particularly monstrous character. The titular sociopath is Thomas Spencer, born "without a conscience" to a New York family whom he terrorizes from an early age. His youthful exploits scheming to break up his parents, flirting with murdering his brother lay the groundwork for a lifetime of sometimes motiveless, sometimes motivated malignity. Thomas ascends in the world of advertizing, public relations, and political campaigning through a series of repetitive episodes usually involving blackmail, coercion, and various flat characters hissing, snarling, and scoffing at one another ("How dare you," almost everyone in Thomas's orbit eventually asks him). Too many scenes drag on, and further weighing down the novel are numerous, and pointless, sections detailing how Thomas could have acted were he not a self-avowed sociopath. Malevolent characters can of course be wickedly fun, as demonstrated by the narrators of novels such as John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure or Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, but those morally challenged gentlemen delighted readers with their fancy prose styles. Here, by contrast, is Thomas describing a sexual encounter: "It was a voyage of discovery into sensations I did not know existed." Navarro's is an earnest large-scale portrait, but the subject deserves better; after all, sociopaths are people too.