THE LATEST WORK from the investigative journalist and thriller writer Christopher Hyde, Abuse of Trust, concerns a young boy whose father is murdered. The boy is then trained at university by a CIA-paid psychiatrist, and abused with mind-altering narcotics; and when qualified as a psychiatrist, he himself forces a selection of female patients to submit to various forms of sexual exploitation and humiliation.
How should one approach such a book? With suspicion and care, but also with a healthy dose of credulity. Dr. James Tyhurst is an irresistibly fascinating figure who actually did what Hyde claims. He became head of the University of British Colombia's psychiatry department, and the charges made by four of his patients eventually came before the provinces supreme court. The effects of the case are still rippling through British Columbia.
Tyhurst did not, it appears, drift into abuse via middle-aged crisis, medical indifference, or brief aberration, but planned his scheme early on in his career. Over the years he took his chosen patients to an island retreat, where he put them into "slave-quarters" and dressed them in fetishistic costumes and chains. He also insisted that they sign contracts agreeing to forced sex and ritualistic punishments.
Hyde's description of the perversion and pain involved in all of this is seldom prurient and never insensitive, but it is inevitably voyeuristic. It could really be no other way. He tries to compensate by dipping into the waters of prediction and wider medical ethics - a pretentious introductory quotation from Masters and Johnson, for example, is quite redundant. Abuse of Trust is not about abusive doctors, but about one unbalanced, malicious individual; and although Hyde attempts to clear himself by announcing in the first paragraph that his book is "not intended to be a scholarly work or an all-encompassing study of sexual abuse by therapists," he does tend to stray from the path and lose his way.
When the CIA is discussed the book is flaccid and speculative, all sensational flummery and dark secrets. There is none so expert as an intelligence expert; Hyde is not such a being, tries to be, and fails miserably. His account of Tyhurst's seduction at the hands of American intelligence and its followers is poor stuff indeed. That said, Abuse of Trust is by no means a bad book. Hyde laments that "too often stories like that of James Tyhurst and his patients have a brief, volatile life in the press and are then quickly forgotten," and he hopes that his book will help to remedy the situation. It probably won't, but the effort was worthy and the results not unimpressive.