In Session involves a sex therapist named Dr. Morgan Snow (MJ Rose’s serial character), who undertakes to treat three heroes of serial fiction: Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone, Barry Eisler’s John Rain, and finally Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Those of you who follow this blog will recognize which of these guys brought me to Dr. Snow’s office – I’ve never read any Berry or Eisler, but Reacher is my fictional main squeeze these days. That said, my brief glimpses of Rain and Malone weren’t bad; maybe I’ll check them out one day, too.
Rose apparently challenged the three authors’ heroes to sex therapy sessions, and they told her if Dr. Snow could wrangle the guys she could treat them. So this book consists of three episodes in which the good doctor meets each of the three men, outside of a standard doctor’s office/therapy setting, and chats with them – to some effect.
I had no history with MJ Rose and didn’t know what to expect. The blurb my mother got from NetGalley referred to Rose (or this book? it wasn’t exactly clear) as… Erotica, Health, Mind & Body, Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Romance. Wowza! What the heck have I gotten myself into? Well, I think these genres must refer to Rose’s work in total, because they don’t all apply to In Session. One sex scene is described in minimal detail; it doesn’t qualify as Erotica. Health, Mind & Body must refer to the therapist character; but her work isn’t covered in any depth. Literature & Fiction? I don’t think so (more in a minute). Mystery & Thrillers is the most likely candidate, just based on the home environments of the three male leads, although there’s not much mystery & thriller in their stories here. And not much Romance, either.
I wasn’t very impressed. Dr. Snow approaches one man under false pretenses and sneaks him some therapy while he wasn’t looking. The next she approaches with an appeal to his services, and they both learn from their interaction. And the third stumbles upon her in a time of need, and he ends up telling her (upon her repeated demands) about a particular sexual experience. In each case, the characters are completely lacking in development and dimension. The therapy is pitifully simplistic and straightforward. Dr. Snow repeats a few lines to several “patients.” The therapy – the growth, the learning about oneself and making progress as a sexual or emotional being – is too facile to feel real. Would it help if I came in with a familiarity with all three male heroes, rather than just one? Maybe; but the Reacher scene wasn’t really any more satisfying than the others. His voice didn’t sound like Reacher to me. Perhaps these tales were just too short. I read them in about an hour (total); there wasn’t time for the characters to develop or for there to really be a problem, a solution, a catharsis, a resolution, any meaningful change. But that reasoning isn’t fair to the short story format, because we all know that there are plenty of artists who paint beautiful pictures in brief snippets. It’s certainly possible to develop a character and, well, tell a story in the short story format. It’s just not done here.
I think the appeal of these three stories is in seeing your favorite hero in a different light, maybe getting into a different aspect of his character. It was a fun concept in theory; it got me: I wanted to see Reacher on the sex-therapy couch. But I was disappointed.
Anybody else check this one out? Any positive impressions? I think my mother liked it and maybe she’ll tell us about it here. How about any fans of Rain or Malone??
I read a digital galley from NetGalley.