Domenic Stansberry

LThe Confession

"In the literary tradition of The Killer Inside Me, and every bit as powerful.

Stansberry is an extraordinarily evocative writer.”

George Pelecanos, author Hell to Pay, and Hard Revolution



“Compelling…. Fascinating… Industrial strength neo-noir.”

”In Edgar-nominee Stansberry's compelling and incredibly dark modern noir  shocker, forensic psychologist Jake Danser  alternates between his day job¬—interviewing murder suspects then  testifying to their culpability—and bedding as many women as possible  without letting his beautiful wife catch on. When one of his mistresses  ends up dead, the focus turns on Danser, and a weighty knot of a psychological puzzle begins to slowly unravel. Danser is a fascinating  narrator because he's a shifty one, telling his story in small, measured  bits ("it is true, there are a few things I haven't  mentioned here about  Angela and myself," he says nearly halfway into the story); the things  going on in the world outside him are almost of secondary interest to  what is going on inside his head. While the Hard Case series consciously  strives for a pulp feel with retro artwork and packaging, the writing  itself is infused with a modern sensibility - after all, Philip Marlowe  never said anything like "for a minute I was a man within the void, and  it was the void that imagined me." Stansberry pours on the blood and  guts in places, so much so that readers may want to take a shower upon  finishing, but lovers of industrial strength neo-noir will savor the  book's thoroughly seamy atmosphere.”

Publisher’s Weekly


"A CLASSIC”  January Magazine

"If exploring the dark primordial passages of the human mind is your thing, then The Confession by Domenic Stansberry must be added to your reading list. Told in first-person by a creepy narrator, and with  unrelenting tension, The Confession is.

certain to become a neo-classic among pulp fiction fans.... Stansberry  does a superior job of transporting his readers deep into  the dark passages of Danser's mind, an undertaking that even  Danser finds daunting at times….

A cold  dread pervades The Confession, fed by a vividly portrayed terrain -- a no-man's land fraught with psychological red flags, perhaps the most daunting being Danser's clear view of San Quentin from his house. Stansberry is the Edgar-nominated author of several previous  works, including The Spoiler (1988), The Last Days  of Il Duce (1999) and the recently published Chasing  the Dragon, and The Confession adds a dimension  of "chill" to the hard-boiled pulp fare currently coming off  the Hard Case Crime presses. Stansberry's exploration of  abnormal psychology in this newest novel is thorough and  sure, and the synopsis it provides of the field not only  fuels the plot progression, but it enables the reader to  accurately gage Danser's thought machinations. Stansberry  masterfully sows a mixture of distrust in one character or  another, without ever tipping his hand. His epilogue here  confirms what the reader suspects throughout, and one can  only be horrified at the grim existence of Danser's inner  life. Stansberry delivers a winner in The Confession

Reviewed by Anthony Rainone in January Magazine


Stansberry is a hard-hitting, uncompromising writer….A masterful novel by a (heretofore) underappreciated master of the genre. Very highly recommended.

Hard Case Crime began publishing in late 2004, and, for those of us who like our murder mysteries served up spicy and hard-boiled, this mass market paperback imprint is an absolute, unrelenting total joy, a not-so-guilty pleasure to be devoured by the page --- and bookful. THE CONFESSION by Domenic Stansberry is a prime example of what Hard Case does, and does so well. Stansberry is a hard-hitting, uncompromising writer; those seeking happy, conventional endings where good and evil are clearly defined and the white hats triumph should look elsewhere. THE CONFESSION is an excellent example of this.

THE CONFESSION is told through the eyes and voice of Jake Danser, a forensic psychologist for Marin County. From the opening page of this dark, brooding novel, one immediately gets the impression that all is not right with Danser. He is caught between two women. Elizabeth is his beautiful, wealthy wife, a psychologist like himself and some years his senior. Danser genuinely seems to love Elizabeth, to the extent that he is capable of the same, yet he has sought solace in the arms of another. Sara Johnson is a criminal attorney some ten years his junior who also is romantically involved with another, and who is pressuring Danser to make a decision regarding his wife.

Danser also is besieged on a professional level, having been called as an expert witness in the Mori trial, a high-profile murder case involving a man accused in the strangulation death of his wife. The defense is being mishandled by the attorney, and Danser risks being held up to ridicule by the district attorney who, as it happens, used to have a relationship with Elizabeth. Matters come to a head when Elizabeth, who has been brooding for months, discovers Danser's infidelity and throws him out of the house. The crowning blow, however, occurs when Danser is accused of a brutal murder that he insists he did not commit. He contends that he is being set up and thinks he knows who is doing it. But knowing and proving are two different things, and Danser is forced to take matters into his own hands...with surprising and frightening results.

As I write these words, THE CONFESSION has just received the 2005 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. What more need be said? This is a masterful novel by a (heretofore) underappreciated master of the genre. Very highly recommended.



“One of the genre’s best writers”

“Fabulous writing, excellent pace and a thoroughly unnerving unreliable narrator results in a book that sticks in your craw, your brain and your gut for a very long time. No question: Stansberry is one of the genre's best writers right now.”

Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind


 “Consumate Page Turner”

Stansberry gives the crime world another sinister shrink

Thursday, November 4, 2004


The concept of the untrustworthy narrator is a venerable one in literature.

In Domenic Stansberry's The Confession (Hard Case Crime, 218 pages, $6.99), we're strung along by the charming but bluntly evasive Jake Danser.

Danser is a forensic psychologist who augments his income by serving as an expert witness in high-profile trials revolving around a succession of presumed psychopaths typically running from murder charges.

Successful, living in a pricey house with a view with his older, psychologist second wife (wife one tragically drowned), Danser has a tendency to stray into transient affairs.

He also has a penchant for proximity to strange deaths ... usually involving suspicious circumstances. In Danser's dark past, there have been a few too many drowned women close to him ... a few too many strangulations in the towns in which he has lived during various phases of his life.

Danser also suffers from a rare and dormant ailment that suddenly manifests itself during a liaison with his latest lover -- an episode that nearly results in his inadvertent strangling of his mistress.

When Sarah Johnson actually turns up murdered later, strangled with one of Danser's ties at a crime scene riddled with the doctor's DNA, Jake finds himself on the other end of the legal system ... confronted with competing shrinks charged with the task of determining Danser's sanity.

It's a task the reader also faces -- forced by Stansberry's tightrope-walk of a novel to ask him/herself if Danser is being framed or if his tale is exactly what it's title implies.

Though you may think you know where The Confession is headed -- and those suspicions may well be borne out on the final page of the book -- the deft author and his untrustworthy narrator keep you along for the ride.

The Confession is a consummate page-turner ... Alfred Hitchcock without the cloying intrusion of the Hays Office.


ThisWeek Staff Writer



One of the regular plots in Gold Medal novels was that of the regular joe who winds up being blamed for a murder he didn’t commit, so that he has to discover the identity of the real killer in order to save his own skin.  This plot sort of crops up again in Domenic Stansberry’s new novel from Hardcase Crime, THE CONFESSION, which is a clever, very well-written, and very dark updating of the sort of psychological thriller that used to be written by Dorothy B. Hughes and Margaret Millar, among others.  Jake Danser may have a regular joe sort of name, but he’s far from that.  A forensic psychologist, he’s married to a beautiful, wealthy woman, but he also has a mistress on the side.  The mistress winds up dead, and the clues not only point to Jake as being the killer but the investigation also turns up evidence possibly linking him to a whole string of similar murders.  This novel is positively crowded with clues.  The trick isn’t spotting them; it’s figuring out what to make of them.  Stansberry also does a masterful job of playing with the reader’s sympathies.  The first person narration makes us want to believe that Jake is really innocent.  After all, he’s letting us into his head and telling us his story, so he can’t really be that bad a guy, now can he?  Well, maybe . . . and maybe not.  Good stuff all around.  This is the first book I’ve read from Hardcase Crime, but it certainly won’t be the last.

James Reasoner, author of Texas Wind


"The pitch  black heart of true noir"

"The Confession" blows away trendy imitations and reclaims the pitch black heart of true noir. It is every bit as good as established classics such as"The Killer Inside Me" and "In a Lonely Place."

Eddie Muller

author of The Distance and Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir


"It's easy to see how Stansberry was nominated for two previous Edgar Allan Poe awards: he really knows his way around the psychological crime genre”

Jake Danser is in a hell of a fix. His wife Elizabeth has found out about his mistress Sara and wants a divorce. Sara wants a commitment but Jake want to save his marriage. In the meantime, Elizabeth has taken up with local prosecutor Minor Robinson during the separation. When Sara is found strangled with a tie very similar to Jake's own, he becomes the prime suspect and Robinson is determined to prove him guilty. Could he be guilty? Well, he does have this disorder where he blacks out for periods of time...

Author Domenic Stansberry successfully utilizes the "confessional" style made most famous by Edgar Allan Poe is such tales as "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." Luckily, Danser does not deluge us with the same multiple protestations regarding his samity as Poe's protagonists did. Stansberry's skillful prose style also lends a level of credence to The Confession, which is essentially a "didhedoit" where the lead character seems often as clueless as the readers.

Danser tells his own story, ten years after, so at the very least, we know he's not dead, but we don't know where he's telling it from (I had assumed it was prison). The confessional style works well for this tale of a man who doesn't seem entirely sure of his own innocence, keeping the all-important doubt in the reader's mind all the way through this highly suspenseful novel. It's easy to see how Stansberry was nominated for two previous Edgar Allan Poe awards: he really knows his way around the psychological crime genre.

The cover, by artist Richard B. Farrell (using his own hands and his wife as models), again represents the inside contents well. The title of the book would seem to give away the ending, but any mention of the ending at all is bound to be a giveaway of some sort. I'll just say, in the sensationalistic style of publishing blurbs everywhere (it doesn't seem entirely inappropriate for this line): "I confess! I was astounded by The Confession.

Craig’s Booklist


This first-person account will give you goose-bumps for days. The narrator, Jeff Danser is a psychologist who admits to being shallow, spoiled and unfaithful. There is a compelling unknown quantity just beneath the surface that keeps the reader reading and curiousity deepening. With masterful technique, the author reveals and conceals until neither the mystery, nor the suspect can be taken for granted. Chilling ending.

from Bookblog  Vivian Lake



Domenic Stansberry's The Confession is the fourth work in the Hard Case Crime™ series. It is told in the first person by Jake Danser, a forensic psychologist who examines criminal defendants and testifies in court about their sanity. Jake also happens to be a womanizer whose first wife was killed in what was deemed to be a boating accident and whose path has crossed those of other women who were murdered.

Stansberry use of first person narrative by the principal character is masterful, as the story revolves around Jake’s retelling of the events surrounding his arrest and eventual acquittal of the murder of his girlfriend, with whom he was engaged in an extramarital affair. The technique permits narrator Jake to slant his account of the critical events in his favor, by—for example--withholding contradictory facts, only revealing them later on in the narrative or through the quoting of statements made by third parties. This device permits the author to keep his readers wondering, as stated on the book’s cover, "Was [Jake] an innocent man…or a depraved killer?" Deciding the answer to that mystery is well worth the enjoyment of reading this engaging book.

From Mostly Fiction

********* Review

Who am I?

Jake Danser is a forensic psychologist living the good life on the California coast north of San Francisco. He's got a good job, a beautiful wife, and a big house with a great view. He goes to all the best parties, plays tennis with the right people, and when he goes to bed at night, he knows that all is right with the world.

Who am I?

Jake Danser is a serial philanderer, falling in and out of flings and even one night stands. His latest is Sara, an attorney who he's run across at the courthouse a few times. He knows that he can't have her and his wife as well, that he'll have to choose. But he ignores that day of reckoning until it arrives unbidden, and his wife kicks him out of their house. Things come to a head when the three of them all end up at a party, the party of the year. And one of them ends up dead.

Who am I?

Jake Danser is a suspect in a murder...

Most books that are narrated in the first person use a Dragnet-style just-the-facts approach, but in The Confession Stansberry never lets you forget that you're seeing things from Jake's point of view and his alone. Early in the book Jake uses the phrase "the mind's eye" and that's really where these events unfold, in Jake's mind, as he reorganizes his memories to fit the person he wants to be.

The problem is that Jake contains multitudes, his personality so complex that even he can't understand it all at once: Happy husband. Furtive lover. Sober psychiatrist. Crazed killer? Jake himself can't be sure.

Stansberry's book is remarkable in the way that it draws us into sympathy with Danser, even as we see his weaknesses. He's not a hero, we can't even be sure he's not guilty, but he is awfully interesting. You'd have him over for dinner, as long as he stayed on his side of the table.

Hard Case Crime, best known for their straight ahead tough-guy books, takes a detour into more complex territory here. While the somewhat stilted style may not appeal to all readers, most will be glad they put in the time that this story demands

Confession  Cover Big



THE CONFESSION              




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