Psycho Justice is a novel to be read in one sitting. While it is intriguing to have a group of serial killers as major characters, the idea that these sociopaths can get to understand each other and themselves through group therapy definitely has its appeal.
Sociopaths cannot survive without their society. As Psycho Justice unveils how these characters have developed their sociopathic behaviors throughout the years, what readers actually see is how Taipei as a society transforms. (The Chinese title of this book is "Serial Killers in Taipei".) For decades since 1949, the city had served as the "temporary" capital of the Republic of China on Taiwan, a political, financial, cultural and spiritual base on which the Nationalist Government had prepared its citizens for an eventual reunification with Mainland China, most likely by force. Considered as leading the "Free China", Taipei had featured a successful marriage between traditional Chinese and contemporary Western -- especially American -- cultures. Also playing a part in the shaping of the city's character was the Japanese culture that dominated Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.
However, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the politics in Taiwan has changed. The public desire is no longer to unify with Mainland China, but to develop Taiwan into an independent and prosperous country. Taipei is still the political and financial capital, but it can no longer smother the competing voices from other parts of the island. The city is increasingly seen as one occupied by those who are rich and powerful, who enjoy their own luxurious lifestyle while turning a blind eye to those in need. Taipei has long upheld its wealth and privileges, but in its numerous alleys and lanes dark shadows have grown.
The five (or six?) sociopaths in Psycho Justice have all tried to be normal, but as readers will find out, it is the unfair and intolerable aspects of their lives that have pushed them over the edge. There is such anger and bitterness in their ordinary hearts that they are forced to seek various extraordinary ways to lash out, to try to survive emotionally, to fight against what they perceive as evil. In their twisted minds, they are doing their best to ensure that justice is not only safeguarded but also glorified.
Cai, the novel's protagonist, is a father, husband, translator and unsuccessful writer. While he is perfectly aware of his own sociopathy, it is through his observation of the "normal" society around him that readers see the looming dark shadows. Unfortunately, Cai's attempt to protect his loved ones from the impact of these shadows has failed. But it is in the process of knowing how Cai fights back that readers learn how ordinary people struggle to survive.
Amazingly, readers may find such ordinary struggles a familiar aspect of their own lives. While there is much in real life to be cursed about, to find a novel such as Psycho Justice, whose characters can actually take action to change the life they don't like, is refreshing. After all, most of us are simply trying to cope with reality. Optimism can only be maintained by imagining there is always hope.