Latest Posts

The Ninth Session by Deborah Serani - Book Tour & Review

By 6:00 AM , , , , , , ,


Deborah Serani

* Psychological Suspense *


Author: Deborah Serani

Publisher: TouchPoint Press

Pages: 190

Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller

Dr. Alicia Reese, a recent widow and a CODA – a child of Deaf Adults,
takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro reveals the reason for his
consultation is that he wasn’t really open with his previous therapist.
After gaining Reese’s trust, he shares aspects of his life that are
clearly disturbing – experiences that create anxiety and panic, but also
reveal horrifying psychopathology. Instead of referring Ferro
elsewhere, Reese chooses to continue working with him, feeling
reinvigorated by the challenge of his case.

As sessions progress, and Ferro’s disclosures become more menacing,
Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional
ethics and the integrity of personal truth – and learns just how far
she’s willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right


Amazon →



First Chapter
Session One
Monday, June 5

The light

slowly filtered in from the other room as I opened the door. This was the last

moment of the unknown, where two strangers meet and a life story begins.


times, I've no idea which seat in the waiting room a new patient will choose.

Sometimes, though, I can make a good guess from the initial phone call.

Usually, the depressed patient, feeling weak with fatigue, sits in the first

seat available, whereas the anxious person, eager to feel relief, selects the

seat closest to the consultation room.

Not that

it really matters. There are only six chairs in my waiting room.

 “Mr. Ferro?” I rolled my neck around the

waiting room. Then checked my watch. Eight o'clock on the dot. Seeing no

one, I pressed my lips together. Did I make the appointment for eight or eight fifteen?

I left

the door ajar, walked to my desk, and re-checked my schedule. I slid my finger

down the Monday, June 5th grid in my appointment book to the eight o’clock hour, and there was his name: Lucas Ferro. He’d be my last

appointment of the night.
Okay, it’s for eight o’clock.
Maybe he’s running late.       

While I

waited, I reviewed my notes from my telephone conversation with Ferro. I opened

the crisp manila file and heard a shuffling, then a sputtering hiss of air in

the waiting room. I turned toward the sound, unsure of what it was.         A magazine falling on the floor?                                                                                                The

air conditioning shutting off?                                                                I

listened for another moment or two and, hearing nothing more, went back to my

desk.    My

office suite was a beautiful setting and one I didn’t mind spending so many

hours in. The waiting room, a spacious rectangle, was lined with several Ficus

trees and exotic plants, paintings from local artists, and burled wood

furniture contemporary in design. The thickly upholstered leather chairs were

caramel in color, and the teal-flecked carpet stretched from wall to wall. The

vaulted ceiling housed three skylights, flooding the room with an abundance of

natural light.   My consultation office was just as large, and there was ample

room for my desk, two chairs, and the proverbial psychoanalyst's couch–and of

course, an etched nameplate on the door: Alicia Reese, Ph.D. Psychologist.                                           Across

from the built-in bookcase was a long picture window overlooking Oyster Bay.

At this time of night, the evening sunset gleamed across the water, layering

the inlet with a silvery orange hue.   I

turned my attention back to the Ferro file, and I heard it again.




sounds of air.



“What is that?” I asked aloud with growing


I'd been working in this building fifteen years and knew

all its creaks, thuds, and mechanical whirrs. But I couldn’t decipher these

sounds. They weren’t familiar.

I tapped

my pocket, confirming the presence of my panic remote. In all the years I’d

been in practice, I never found a need to use it.

I got up

from my desk and moved toward the door that led to the waiting room. An

emerging sense of uneasiness took hold. I heard a hollow voice say something I

couldn’t catch and then trail off.

I jolted

forward, took out the panic alarm, and held my thumb on the button, ready to

send the signal. I entered the waiting room but saw no one.
Again it happened.
The bang of something hitting the ground.
Then a rush of air.

I focused

my vision on the sounds, turning my gaze toward the far right corner of the

reception room.
The darkened bathroom.

I walked

in willed steps toward the nearly closed door. Drawing in a deep breath, I

opened it all the way with a poke of my index finger.


standing against the corner wall, was the shadow of Lucas Ferro having a panic


“The’s cool,” Ferro said, breathing raggedly like a drowning swimmer.


sounds of air.


okay, Mr. Ferro.” I followed his frenzied movements with my eyes. “I’m gonna

step away and give you some room.”

I flicked

on the bathroom light as I moved away. As the room brightened, I saw Ferro's

face. It was sweaty and chalk white. His black hair flopped in wet patches

across his forehead, and his eyes were narrow slits of blue. His body moved in

spasms, halting and then starting again.


tugged at his shirt collar as he drew in rapid breaths. Watching him, I felt

the anxiety leave my body and the return of my clinical posture. This was a

crisis, and I went into crisis mode.

“I want

you to listen to my voice as you take in a deep, slow breath.”

 Ferro lifted his shoulders, straightening

himself from the stooped position against the wall. His knees bent several

times as if unable to bear his own weight. Then, all at once, his body buckled

toward the sink, but he anchored his two hands on the porcelain base to steady

himself. As he drew in a series of deep breaths and huffed them coarsely

through his mouth, his feet wobbled and slapped the tiled floor.




doing great,” I said. “You're gonna be just fine.”


color began to return to his face.

“I want

you to slow your breathing even more. Like this.” I modeled the technique for



followed my instructions and formed a slower breathing pattern, ending the

hyperventilation that gripped him. Bit by bit, he raised himself to a solid

standing posture. A self-conscious impulse took over as he saw his reflection

in the mirror. Ferro slicked back his hair with his fingers, smoothed his

clothing, and blotted the sweat from his face with a swipe of his arm. Then he

smiled at me weakly.


crisis was over.

As he

found his way back from this acute attack, I realized there was no longer a

need for me to be holding the panic alarm. I tucked it back into my pocket. I

waited for what I thought was a good moment to ask my very first question.

“Can you

move out of the bathroom?”


nodded his head and walked toward the reception area. Upon moving into the

waiting room, his eyes sought my approval to sit down.

“Yes, of

course,” I said.


slumped into the chair and tilted his head back against the wall. I moved a few

seats away and waited for him to find a sense of balance.

In the

long stretch of silence that followed, I studied him in sidelong glances,

trying not to be obvious. He was young, probably mid-to-late twenties, and his

dark blue eyes glowed with intensity. He was dressed in a green and white

Abercrombie & Fitch shirt. There was a moose logo on the left chest pocket.

His slacks were washed in a dark tan hue, and he wore no socks with his deck

shoes. On his wrist, a flash of gold—a watch with chunky links. He was

vulnerable right now, but as the panic faded, I noticed he was muscular in

build. And tall. Six feet or more.


remained quiet in the room for a while. I was always good with silence. It was

a comfortable experience.


worried you won’t be able to help me,” Ferro said finally. His voice was dry,

cracking slightly.


makes you say that?”

He was

silent as he regarded me. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to find the right

words or still seized by panic. The silence stretched as he continued looking

at the ceiling, occasionally rubbing his hands over his eyes and face. He

cleared his throat several times, fighting the dryness.

“Let me

get you some water,” I said, getting up. I filled a paper cup with cold tap

water in the bathroom.


drank it down in one large gulp. He crumpled the cup and rolled the shapeless

form between his hand and fingers.

“Been in

therapy before. Nothing’s helped,” he spoke again.


you’re here tonight. Something made you feel hopeful.”


said nothing but shifted restlessly in his seat. I gave him a few moments

before leaning forward to talk again. Just then, he stopped moving altogether

and turned his gaze toward me. It was a searching look, and at that instant, it

was as if he was seeing me for the first time.


guess... I’m hoping you can help me.”


about we move into my office?”

A beat

later, Ferro nodded.


him to find a level of comfort, I avoided unnecessary words or actions as he

made his way into the consultation room. He walked and sat in a nearby chair.

He drew in a few deep breaths trying to get comfortable, but it felt like he

could take flight at any moment—leaving the session altogether.                          “I’m

not exactly sure where to begin.”                                                              “Why

don’t you tell me how long you’ve had these attacks?” It seemed a good starting



two years.”

My eyes

widened. “A long time.”


Ferro replied.

“Any idea

why they happen?” 


–uh—it's complicated.”


are my specialty.”        


laughed and sat back a little further in his chair.


me about your work with Dr. Karne," I asked, giving him another place to

start. Dr. Paula Karne was a well-regarded psychologist who practiced cognitive

behavior therapy in Great Neck.

“Saw her

for a few months, y'know, trying to stop the anxiety."


kinds of things did you work on?"


how I think, replacing bad habits with better ones. Stuff like that."




behavior therapy focuses on in-the-moment issues and how to change them to find

greater well-being. Though I worked differently than Dr. Karne, my goal would

be the same: to help the patient feel better.


cleared his throat and spoke again. "I wasn’t always totally honest with

her, though.”

“How do

you mean?”


exactly tell her what was really bothering me. Thought I’d just go there and

learn how to control things. That’s all I really wanted anyway.”

“To control

the panic on your own,” I said, reframing his thoughts.


But I know I gotta be more open. That’s why I decided to try again.”


honest is important in therapy.”


came down like a curtain, and we lingered in its folds for a while.


do you think it was hard to be more open with Dr. Karne?" I asked him.


she doesn't really work like that."


I eased back in my seat. "She works just with the behaviors you have. She

doesn't get into the nitty gritty things like emotions, memories."           


nodded in agreement.


what’s honesty mean to you?” I asked when it was clear he wasn’t going to speak



all the cards, I guess. Talking about things I don’t wanna share.”


feeling things."


nodded. "Makes me feel weak.”
“How so?”

“I really

don’t like needing other people.”


makes you feel weak?”


there been times in the past where needing others wasn’t easy?” This was a

gentle probe to move him deeper into his thoughts. Ferro said nothing, shutting

down by looking away. Sensing I might be moving too quickly, I shifted my

approach. “We can talk about those kinds of things at a later time.”                                           “It’s hard to just open up to someone you


“I get



track of time, I checked the clock on the end table where Ferro sat. The

session was nearing its end. So much occurred and yet so little was done to

obtain a formal clinical interview. 

“We have

just a few more minutes. How about scheduling another appointment?”


okay,” he said, handing me the shapeless cup.

I took it

from him, wondering why he hadn’t placed it in the trashcan himself.


about seeing me on Wednesday?”

“Twice a



I was thinking three times a week.”

            Ferro glanced out the window and then raised his eyes to

mine. As he did this, he shrugged his shoulders. "All right."                                                                        We’ll look at why you're feeling anxiety, explore your

early childhood, your connections to others.”                                                                                      Ferro nodded.                                                                                                  “Do you know much about Psychoanalysis?”                                                     A little. Dr. Karne talked about it.”                                                                        “We’re going to explore your thoughts, feelings, and

behaviors, but in a deeper way.”                                                                                                                            The

unconscious.”                                                                                                       Yes,” I said, pleased he was familiar with the term. “These

techniques will help us kick your anxiety to the curb."                                                                         I'd like that.”                                                                                                   How does seven o’clock

work for you?”                                                                         Ferro nodded. I picked up a pen and filled in the Wednesday, June 7th slot. Taking an

appointment card from the holder on my desk, I completed his name, the time,

and the date. His eyes seemed glued to my every movement.                             Here you go,” I said as I held out the card.We have to stop.”   That’s it, then?”                                                                                                           For now.”       &nbspThe arc of the

session went from one extreme to the other. Lucas

Ferro walked into my office at his worst and left seemingly in control.                                 See you Wednesday, Dr. Reese.” Ferro paused, looked at me,

and extended his hand.  nbsp; Many

classical analysts hold back from any form of touch in sessions. I was a modern analyst, and incidental touch wasn’t

something taboo to me.                   See you Wednesday,” I said and met his hand with my own.                                   His grip was firm and tight.


My Review
The Ninth Session is a pretty interesting psychological thriller that will keep readers on their toes.
The story is written in "sessions" as the main character, Dr. Alicia Reese, takes on a new patient and starts to uncover his secrets and earn his trust. After each session, Dr. Reese details her thoughts about her new patient and how she plans to proceed. There are also chapters that detail her life outside of work, including visiting her deaf sister, interacting with her neighbors and their foster children, and remembering her husband who passed away.
As the title suggests, everything comes to a head in the ninth session, and boy, oh boy, it's a doozy. I won't spoil anything about what happens, but it definitely is intense.
There are quite a few twists within the pages of The Ninth Session, and that one close to the end...
I can honestly say that even though this book seems like a straightforward sort of thriller, it goes in a direction I wasn't quite expecting, and that's what made it enjoyable and exciting. I found myself second-guessing things as I read on, and then I started second-guessing my second-guesses.
It's an entertaining read, to be sure, so if you're a fan of suspense novels and/or psychological thrillers, you'll want to give The Ninth Session a whirl.
4.5 stars!


Deborah Serani is an award-winning author and psychologist who has
been in practice for thirty years. She is also a professor at Adelphi
University and is a go-to media expert for psychological issues. Her
interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Associated Press,
and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. Dr. Serani
has also been a technical advisor for the NBC television show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The recurring character, Judge D. Serani, was named after her.


You Might Also Like


Please try not to spam posts with the same comments over and over again. Authors like seeing thoughtful comments about their books, not the same old, "I like the cover" or "sounds good" comments. While that is nice, putting some real thought and effort in is appreciated. Thank you.