Review: Psycho by Robert Bloch

Publisher’s Description

The story was all too real—indeed this classic was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a psychotic murderer who led a dual life. Alfred Hitchcock too was captivated, and, the year after it was released, he turned the book into one of the most-loved horror films of all time.

Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. Ever since leaving the hospital, he has lived with Mother in the old house up on the hill above the Bates Motel. One night, after a beautiful woman checks into the motel, Norman spies on her as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.

Thrilling Reads Review

As an admirer of Alfred Hitchcock’s work, with a habit formed during my college days, I frequently indulge in the director’s cinematic gems. Earlier this year, I revisited The Birds and Psycho for what feels like the hundredth time. On this occasion, I recalled that Psycho was originally a novel penned by Robert Bloch, a book I’d yet to explore. I decided to rectify this oversight, and I must say, I’m thrilled that I did.

Bloch’s Psycho is an unnerving, pulse-pounding, riveting journey, which, despite its brevity at 227 pages, delivers a powerful impact.

The narrative closely mirrors the film adaptation we’re all familiar with. Norman Bates, oppressed by his mother’s memory, plays the protagonist whose life revolves around the dilapidated Bates Motel and the eerie house above it, where he continues to live with “Mother”, despite her death two decades prior.

When a beautiful woman checks into the motel, Norman is drawn to her, leading to him spying on her, a transgression he cannot help. Yet, his ever-present Mother is there to guard him against his ‘sordid’ desires with her butcher knife.

The novel offers an expanded exploration of Norman’s tortured psyche and his convoluted relationship with his domineering mother. It delves deeper into the lives of Mary Crane (renamed Marion in Hitchcock’s adaptation), her lover Sam Loomis (portrayed by John Gavin in the film), and Mary’s sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles). It paints a hauntingly unsettling picture of a man unravelled by his mother’s tyranny.

Although Hitchcock’s film skillfully reflects Norman’s fractured mental state during his encounter with Mary Crane, the book lends a much deeper understanding of the character’s motivations. This could potentially dilute the allure of the cinematic version as it relies heavily on the mystery surrounding Norman’s actions until the climactic reveal. But the movie is more than sixty years old now, so that shouldn’t be too big of a hurdle to overcome.

Upon reading the novel, I’ve developed a newfound respect for Robert Bloch as an author, an individual who I feel has been underrated. I thoroughly enjoyed Psycho and recommend it for fans of Hitchcock’s films and those who appreciate a thrilling, psychologically intense read.

It's safe to say that Alan Petersen loves mystery and thriller books. He writes high-octane thrillers, hosts the MEET THE THRILLER AUTHOR podcast, and reviews thriller/mystery books.

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