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Publisher's Summary

It was a dark and stormy night when Mary Crane glimpsed the unlit neon sign announcing the vacancy at the Bates Motel. Exhausted, lost, and at the end of her rope, she was eager for a hot shower and a bed for the night. Her room was musty, but clean, and the manager seemed nice, if a little odd. 

This classic horror novel, which inspired the famous film by Alfred Hitchcock, has been thrilling people for 50 years. It introduced one of the most unexpectedly twisted villains of all time in Norman Bates, the reserved motel manager with a mother complex, and has been called the "first psychoanalytic thriller".

©1959 Robert Bloch (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Icily terrifying!" (New York Times

"A terribly chilling tale." (Bestsellers

Featured Article: From Page to Scream—Spine-Chilling Listens that Inspired Horror Movies


Even though your popcorn might end up on the floor at the first jump scare, there’s something inherently satisfying about scary movies. Many standout suspenseful flicks have distinguished literary roots—based on books written by some of the best authors in the genre. These terrifying tales—all of which were adapted for the big screen—offer plenty of frights. Here’s a spotlight on terrifying tales that will have you sleeping with the lights on.

What listeners say about Psycho

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

We all go a little crazy sometimes

It's pretty hard to accept the Bates Motel as a great holiday destination after the impact of the film of Psycho. But even if you come to this after seeing the film this is a great listen. It's pulp horror but is surprisingly psychologically minded with well drawn characters, especially when you remember it was written in 1959. I always felt the main difference between the book and the film was in the casting of Anthony Perkins. Norman in the book is a lot less savoury. The narration is excellent and I really enjoyed this. It's also fun to listen to again when you know what's really going on. Highly recommended

30 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

THIS IS THE AGE OF HI-FI

EVERY NAIL SERVES A PURPOSE
Scary wise this is not as good as most horror books of today. That does not change the fact that it is a well written book. It was entertaining and kept my attention all the way through. There are some interesting well developed characters in this book.

YOU HAVEN'T THE GUMPTION
I think all of us have times in our lives when we want to crawl in a nice warm hole and just hibernate. Norman Bates is scared of people and all he wants in life is to be warm, cozy and safe. I have a friend who is extremely active in society, an extrovert. He admitted to me once that occasionally, he draws the curtains, stays in his pajamas and does not leave the house for maybe a week. I think all of us, can see a little of ourselves in Norman Bates.

IT WAS NICE TO BE 7FT TALL
This book also hits one of my pet peeves. Some people always talk about the past like it was so much better then today. This book shows a little bit about what life was like in the 50's and early 60's. A male dominated society, where the best most women could do was marry a successful man. It was harder to get divorced in those days, and I believe there were a lot of unhappy marriages. I believe there were a lot of unhappy people in those days and that is not counting the blacks, Jews and other minorities. There also seemed a fascination in the early 60's with psychology. We went from, it was a secret if you saw a psychiatrist, to it was the In thing to do. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were the main stars and all there movies showed the sadness of society of the time.

One other thing, this is another one of those books where the main character has a weight problem, but in the movie is portrayed by a skinny actor.

I liked the narrator, the private eye spoke so slow you could hear the moss grow on his vocal chords, but all other characters were great.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

We're All Not Quite As Sane As We Pretend To Be

What a book! This is a great example of a classic horror/thriller novel. "Psycho" will pull you in from the start even if you have already seen the movie and know what to expect. The story is detailed, holds your attention and is easy to follow. The narrator did a great job and really added to the suspense. I admit, I got chills during certain parts. Things just get crazier and crazier as you move along. This is definitely a fun and exciting listen.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Has anyone not seen the film?

What did you love best about Psycho?

Hitchcock was pretty loyal to the book, other than casting -- Norman is a different age and body type than Anthony Perkins, and Martin Balsam plays Arborgast considerably different than the book's character. It's so difficult to not "see" the film while listening to the book, but, fortunately, they pretty much follow the same path.

The performance is very good. The reader makes subtle changes in voice, just enough to let you know it's a different character.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

The story you love, but badly done

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Reading the book satisfied my curiosity about the film adaptation process, but here's the short version. Bloch came up with a very interesting sequence of plot points, which Hitchcock copied. All but a few of the key moments of the film are here. However, and this is really not a contradiction, Bloch had no idea how to tell a story. His pacing could not be worse. He breezes past large swaths of the plot, then labors forever on the characters' most tedious qualities (Lila's whining, Sam's stoicism, Norman's simpering about his mother.) I ended up disliking everyone by the end of it. A short five hour audiobook went by in slow motion. The gender stereotypes have dated badly, and the increased gore made the story ickier without being more interesting.

Would you ever listen to anything by Robert Bloch again?

I am a little curious what other plots the writer of Psycho came up with, but not curious enough to sit through more of his writing. I'll read the Wikipedia synopsis.

Did Paul Michael Garcia do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

He did give every character a distinctive voice, but that only confirmed how grating a lot of the personalities were. It's always hard for men to voice romantic female leads, but oh boy, he made Lila a pill.

Could you see Psycho being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Did you seriously just ask me, "Could you see Psycho being made into a movie or a TV series?" Yes. Both.

Any additional comments?

Read the print copy. That way you can skim the monologues and avoid having to actually listen to the dialogue.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

15% more detail than the movie, maybe.

Reading a book based on a movie that's already in my top-ten thrillers of all time; it just seemed like a great idea at the time.

But here's the problems. The book didn't just inspire the movie, it was the movie. The only parts missing were probably left out to keep the movie under 2 hours; in that, they weren't that vital to the story, and they only added little bits of insight to the already fantastic story.

So, if you've seen the movie? If you've seen the movie a lot of times, and watched the sequels, and the Vince Vaughan remake? The book will probably shine very little light onto what you already know about the tale.

The narrator did a good job, good enough. Lila, (Lily?) sounded like the biggest whiner in the world, which I initially thought was just the way this narrator thought women talked, but, after reading a few reviews on Goodreads as well, nope, it's not him, it's totally that the character is a whiny lady.

Also - if you're in search of as many cliches as possible, specifically in characters, dialog, and tropes, this is the book for you. (Of course, it's entirely possible that the book, written in 1960, quite possibly set the standard for a lot of those things.)

So - long story short, if you loved the movie so much that you became almost obsessive over it, this book will shed very little light on anything... and actually drags in some areas, even though it's a relatively short novel.

Last thing - the ending, or last chapter, or epilogue - wow it just goes on and on forever, like Bloch got tired of writing the story and just put together some bullet points to wrap the story up. I didn't make it all the way to the end.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Finally got to read this classic

I can't believe it took so long for me to read this "classic" book. It's better than I expected, and perhaps a bit less dramatic than the movie (hard to be gory in this era I suppose).

It does not have any "surprises" but, that's probably due to the storyline being part of our modern culture... there's not much odd about transvestites or murderers or schitzos in our current day and age but, for its time, these concepts were probably extra-shocking.

I disliked the "epilogue" - way too lecturey, like the author needed to explain all the threads from the story rather than let us figure it out on our own - like we didn't realize Bates wasn't *really* his mother. Well, until the final moments anyway... hehehe

The narrator was very good.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Inside Norman Bates

On the surface, Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Psycho is very faithful. But Hitchcock's most significant departure from Robert Bloch's blueprint is most telling -- Hitchcock starts with the second chapter, Marion Crane (Mary in the book) fleeing after embezzling money and ending up at the Bates Motel. This creates a plot structure considered innovative -- a movie focused on a character who is killed off halfway through, shifting to another character who was not even introduced for the first twenty minutes.

The novel is more conventional -- Norman is the sole protagonist from the start, Mary really no more than a temporary intruder into his world. The novel is also more conventional in dramatizing the internal struggles of Norman -- we see him from the inside, rather than the outside-in view of the movie (although Anthony Perkins does a remarkable job of depicting him from the exterior).

So even though we know what is going to happen every step of the way, the novel actually offers a much different perspective. Hitchcock was truly a master of suspense and visually virtuosic. While not rising to the same level of all-time masterwork, Bloch's novel is still worth reading for it's psychological examination of Norman (vs. Norma, vs. normal).

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

We're all not quite as same as we pretend to be

The first time I read Robert Bloch's "Psycho" (1959) was in 1975. The highest grossing movie that year - and the movie that single finnedly built Universal into a theme park - was "Jaws". Adapted from Peter Benchley's 1974 novel, that monster was grotesque, alien and incredibly gory. I'd seen Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 movie and expected the same violence in Bloch's book, but "Psycho" was much more subtle. It's a psychological thriller, not a slash fest.

"Psycho" is very much a book of its times. It's set in an era when women were desperate to wed, and having a job was a shameful marks of the lower working class. Mary Crane is so set on marriage to a penurious Sam Loomis, wracked with inherited debt, that when the opportunity presents itself, she absconds with $40,000. The irony is that Loomis wouldn't want someone willing to commit a crime for him.

Mary Crane gets truly lost in a way that was only possible in a pre-GPS, pre-cell phone, pre-credit card world and ends up at The Bates Motel, dilapidated and long forgotten by a freeway bypass. It's raining, though, and there's nothing else for miles and miles. Norman Bates, long bullied by his mother, dares to stand up to the elderly harridan, relents and rents a room for the night to Mary Crane.

Mary Crane meets an end presaged by the infamous shower scene so adeptly filmed by Hitchcock. (And no, you never actually see a knife.) Later, a private investigator, Loomis, and Lila Crane, Mary's sister, come looking for her. What actually happened to Mary is never in doubt - but what happened to Norman and his mother is.

There are parts of this book that are going to offend modern sensibilities. There's an inherent prejudice against a class of people -based on immutable characteristics - people who are still sometimes unfairly maligned. It's not possible to discuss what the issue is without revealing the plot. The stereotyping was acceptable in 1959, but it's not today. The prejudice is informative in the way that Mark Twain's casual use of racial slurs in "Huck Finn" (1885) is. Both books are snapshots of a past time, when mores were different. Bloch does attempt a more nuanced psychological approach to the issue than could have been appreciated when the book was written, though.

Paul Michael Garcia was okay as narrator. I did find his performance of Lila Crane simpering, which was a little off-putting.

The title of the review is a quote from the book.

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Blows the Movie Out of the Water!

This is definitely one of those "Like the movie, love the book" type books. It is an easy listen, well read and well written. The story is easy to follow and the characters are easy to imagine... although while listening I couldn't get the original music to the 1950's movie out of my head.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Dredddog
  • 05-26-19

Great story, well told.

Great story, gripping and highly enjoyable, yet different in places from the famous film. The narrator was fine and effectively conveyed the story. It's hard to imagine how groundbreaking this must have been in the 50s when the idea of a serial killer wasn't widely understood by the general public, but it remains a cracking good read today.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • GG5667
  • 03-05-19

Excellent novel and narration

An excellently read account of Bloch's most famous novel. My only criticism is the missing of the last few paragraphs from the original novel and Mrs Bates's final line 'She wouldn't even harm a fly...' Other than that, a great reading.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • bernardo
  • 04-07-16

Was shaking in my boots !!! Well, a tremble !

Every bit as good as the Movie, suspense and excellently narrated, nearly listened to the full story in one go, a must 😄

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • brian nesbit
  • 07-17-21

excellent story

Great to finally hear after years of watching the movie bit different but good 👍👌

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • peter regan
  • 05-19-21

Great, just great.

Fabulous story. Loved every creepy minute of it. Brilliant !!!
Narration was spot on, very , very good.
So much better than the film and I just love the film.
Great characters, I felt so sorry for Norman and his struggles with
“ Mother”
Can’t
Highly recommend this book.
On next to Psycho 2.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chris Bradley
  • 06-28-20

decent telling

story is timeless. narration is a bit off for my liking but it's not terrible. an enjoyable listen

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • vicky ross
  • 01-27-18

great classic

love the storyline well read and written good characters really good book and great classic

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • SDyson
  • 07-28-17

Wow!!

Although a bit dated I enjoyed narration's book a lot more than I thought I would, and the narrator's voice was a perfect match for this audio book.....

.