Sometimes I just have to do it. The voyeur in me gets an overwhelming compulsion to see how the other half lives. The nice thing about reading true crime is that I end up reveling in how "normal" my family really is.
Seduced by Madness is the story of Susan Polk, an Orinda housewife who murdered her psychiatrist husband. This is the tale of an apparently perfect marriage in the apparently perfect town and a most unlikely murderess.
Pogash does a masterful job on dissecting the dynamics of the marriage and the family bonds . She tells a compelling story of two brilliant (and deeply disturbed) partners. Neither one of these people are particularly sympathetic or likable. Pogash carefully dissects both partners and their marriage and somehow manages to this in a most unjudgmental way. The author never stoops to demonizing either one of them.
Her analysis of Susan, Felix and their children is put into the context of the times and the psychological movements of the day. And creates an detailed on complex backdrop for the actual murder and trail.
The real tragedy is not that Felix was murdered; or that Susan did it. The real tragedy lies in the children’s stories. The circus they created around their son Adam and his preschool experiences, the alternative therapies they pursued and the ultimate destruction of the entire family; leaving each of the children fighting (in their own ways) to make sense of any of it. In the end the children lost not only thier parents but each other as well.
This story goes beyond the standard true crime genre and is a fascinating social, psychological and legal analysis that will keep you reading way past lights out time.
Here is the publisher's synopsis:
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.