Nathan Hart is a paranoid schizophrenic who insists that he is being framed for the murder of his former psychologist. His court appointed lawyer, Ted Stevens, neither believes nor trusts his new client – and with good reason. Not only is the evidence against him compelling, but Stevens prosecuted Hart for murder years before, convinced that he was a deviously clever sociopath who was faking mental illness. The prosecution resulted in Nathan’s indefinite confinement in the psychiatric facility, and his vow to kill Ted and his family. So Ted is understandably suspicious when Nathan specifically requests that the judge appoint him to his case. Is this part of Hart’s plan for revenge? Is he playing mind games with Ted and trying again to manipulate the system? Or is he, as unlikely as it may seem, being framed for this second murder? Skeptical, but intrigued, Ted takes the case. Amidst the turmoil of the break up of his marriage and his struggle to stay sober, Ted must now match wits with his enigmatic client, deal with uncooperative witnesses and hostile hospital employees in order to decipher the conflicting clues and uncover the truth of this savage killing before he becomes the next victim.
What Others are Saying
Terry Lewis has managed to combine a legal and psychological thriller with a tantalizing mystery, and create a story that grabs you by your lapels and keeps you hooked until the last page. A troubled lawyer, a brilliant paranoid schizophrenic, and a wonderful cast of supporting characters make this a must read. Lewis’s ability to get inside the mind of a mentally ill man is at once insightful and chilling. His portrayal of a lawyer fighting addictions and a broken marriage, while reluctantly representing a delusional man he thinks may be guilty of murder, is as stark as reality. His courtroom scenes could only have been written by one who has spent many years in the system, and has a deep understanding of the process of justice. In short, this is a great book.
H. Terrell Griffin is a former trial lawyer and the author of the national bestselling Matt Royal mystery series.
In Delusional, Terry Lewis uses his real life experience as a judge to turn the legal thriller on its head. ...exciting and intricate.
James Born -- award winning author of Burn Zone.
Terry Lewis is a master. Each time out he out Grishams Grisham. It's no surprise this sitting judge knows his way around a courtroom--knows the law and lawyers; criminals and the criminal justice system--but what readers might find pleasantly surprising is just how well he knows his way around humanity--the way real human beings think and talk and behave. The verdict is in. Read Terry Lewis today.
Michael Lister -- award winning author of Separation Anxiety
“Why is brilliance so close to insanity? Lewis delves into the mind of a madman in this gripping, intriguing and genre-busting tale.”
Mark Mustian – acclaimed author of The Gendarme.
Terry Lewis has presented a tantalizing scenario. A former prosecutor turned defense attorney is appointed to defend a man he previously prosecuted. That, by itself, would set up one heck of a story, but But Lewis' protagonist, Ted Stevens, was unable to gain a conviction for Nathan Hart, who killed his parents and his brother. Hart was declared insane and sent to a psychiatric facility. Now, several years later, he is suspected of killing his former psychologist, and he wants Ted Stevens as his public defender. His defense, same as when his family died: The Unit did it.
On each page of the story, the primary question concerns Hart's condition. Is he schizophrenic, as diagnosed, or a diabolical killer who knows how to work the system? Does The Unit exist? Stevens doesn't know. The beautiful psychologist who currently treats Hart has mixed feelings, and everyone who comes into contact with him has an opinion.
About the time you think you're getting a handle on the story, Lewis throws another twist your way. Read and enjoy. You'll look forward to the next Ted Stevens adventure.
Randy Rawls – author of the popular Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series
Lewis crafts third legal thriller
Here comes the Judge. For the third time. And he keeps getting better.
Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has produced his third legal thriller, “Delusional.”
It follows his novels, “Conflict of Interest” (1997) and “Privileged Information” (2003).
Understandably, Lewis takes a while between novels — as his day job keeps him busy.
Lewis, 61, has served on the bench of the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida since 1998 and was one of the jurists who oversaw the 36-day Florida recount of the 2000 U.S. presidential election. A graduate of Florida State University and FSU law school, who practiced law in Tallahassee for many years, Lewis was a Leon County Judge (1989-1998) before moving onto the circuit court.
Lewis’ backdrop is always the Big Bend. His first book was set in Tallahassee, his second in his native Perry and now his third book splits time between Chattahoochee and Tallahassee.
That means there is liberal dose of real-life Tallahassee streets, neighborhoods and FSU football in “Delusional” — even as Lewis continues his pattern of referring to this newspaper by the fictional name, Tallahassee Republican. (Terry, we won’t sue if you want to give us a plug.)
Lewis’ protagonist is once again troubled attorney Ted Stevens, who starred in “Conflict of Interest.” Stevens’ law partner, Paul Morganstein, the more sobersided lead in “Privileged Information,” returns in a supporting role. As before, Stevens struggles with alcohol and drugs, while also dabbling in minor ethical indescretions. Stevens has just separated from his wife and is soon embroiled in a legal battle over custody of their grade-school daughter.
His professional challenge is just as vexing: Stevens has been tapped as the court-appointed attorney for Nathan Hart, a patient at Chattahoochee’s Florida State Hospital for the criminally insane. Hart was convicted of killing his parents — aconviction won by Stevens when he was a prosecutor. Hart is now accused of killing a psychologist at the hospital. Though all the circumstantial evidence and eyewitnesses point his way, Hart insists he did not commit the murder.
Hart is actually the book’s co-star, as much of the book is told from his point of view. Hart is either a highly intelligent, paranoid-schizophrenic, who truly did kill his parents — or he was set up by The Unit, a shadowy off-the-books government agency that he believes included his father and uncle. Oh, and by the way, he says God talks to him on a regular basis.
Hart is clever enough to maneuver a judge into allowing him to represent himself, as well as stipulate that Stevens serve as his co-counsel. He’s also perceptive enough to help Stevens sort through various other suspects and motivations. And Stevens can use the help.
Could the killer be the dead psychologist’s lover or her husband? Could it be a jealous colleague? Could it be Hart’s pretty and independent female counselor, on whom Stevens has a budding crush? Could it be Hart, who simply is playing everyone?
Lewis does a fine job illustrating the mind of a schizophrenic: The reader is left not wholly sure that Hart is insane or just insanely clever. Lewis also does another fine job, as he did in his first novel, of describing the challenges of a substance abuser — though he oddly switches point of view midway through the book and has Stevens addressing the reader about his problems. Unlike Lewis’ previous two books, this novel spends less time in the courtroom — but still offers interesting legal insights. There is an episode in which Stevens explains to a mother why his plea-bargained 10year sentence for her teenage son, who clearly committed the crime, should be viewed as a victory. It rings of the heart-wrenching but necessary compromises Lewis must see frequently in real-life court.
But Lewis is perhaps best at weaving a taut plot, with lots of feints and twists before the reader is certain of the real killer. He’s created a genuine page-turner.
Tallahassee Democrat 10/13/2013
Reviewed by Jan Pudlow for Fla Bar Journal
Second Circuit Judge Terry Lewis knows crazy.
When he began researching Delusional — his third novel about rumpled, hard-drinking, flawed but likeable trial lawyer Ted Stevens — Lewis reached out to fellow judge Stew Parsons.
Parsons, who had served for many years as general counsel of Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, led Lewis to the clinical program director of the state mental hospital 50 miles from Tallahassee, who arranged for the judge to shadow psychologists and talk to patients and administrators.
So when Lewis crafts descriptions of the twisted thoughts of Nathan Hart — found not guilty by reason of insanity of killing three members of his family — there is an authentic ring to his paranoid schizophrenic delusions of being hard-wired to God’s voice, among other auditory and visual hallucinations.
“At times I feel like a switchboard operator with too many incoming calls,” describes Hart, who can hear whispers from 20 yards away and sniff a woman’s perfume across a crowded room, when his mind isn’t dulled by drugs.
But, Hart warns the reader, “before you dismiss my account as the ranting of a madman, ask yourself this: How could this supposedly crazy person present to you, in extensive detail, in cogent and literary prose, the events that have led us to this point?
“Remember, as well, that the truth is sometimes symbolic, and I may have to lay it between the lines. That is the core of myth, is it not?”
Separating fact from fiction, sanity from insanity, truth from lies, and good from evil is plopped in the unwilling lap of Stevens, a Tallahassee lawyer who six and a half years earlier had served as the prosecutor who tried unsuccessfully to put Hart away in prison. Stevens considers Hart to be a clever sociopath who faked mental illness to get away with murder.
In the current legal conundrum, Hart is now charged with the murder of his former psychologist, found stabbed to death in his office with a letter opener, shortly after Hart was denied conditional release from the mental hospital.
Lewis uses his judicial experience to deftly make credible this incredible lawyer-client relationship. Why would Stevens, on the conflict lawyer list, accept this court appointment to represent a guy he once prosecuted, especially when Hart had once threatened to kill his wife and daughter? Why can’t Stevens just tell the judge he won’t take the case?
When Stevens tells his law partner, “I’m not sure I can do it with the zeal the code requires,” his partner gives him a pep talk about being professional, even if you can’t stand your client. Then, the partner gives Stevens an out to withdraw because of “personal considerations,” but uses a tone of voice that hinted at “an admission of some lamentable moral weakness.”
Stevens knew what his partner at their small boutique firm was really thinking about such a juicy, high-profile case with the former prosecutor now serving as defense attorney: “You couldn’t buy that kind of advertising.”
Hart actually requested Stevens to serve as his lawyer, and once Stevens meets with Hart at the hospital, Hart tells him the two cases are related and their “destinies are inextricably intertwined.”
By page 44, Stevens ignores the “warning whistles going off in my head,” and stays on the case, even though he considers his client to be a dangerous, cold-blooded murderer.
“I couldn’t tell whether he was sane or insane, delusional or lying to me, or whether he might just be telling the truth,” Stevens explains. “And that intrigued me.”
With that, the reader jumps into the intrigue, suspending disbelief and joining Stevens on a complicated quest for solving the murder, or at least coming up with a credible defense to establish reasonable doubt, all while Stevens is dealing with his own messy divorce.
A Hitchcockian cast of characters who shift from good to bad, plot twists muddled by a patient off his meds, and mind games where you aren’t ever sure who’s winning or losing, keep the reader guessing until the very last chapter.
Delusional is a crazy good read.
Jan Pudlow is a senior editor with The Florida Bar News.