A legal thriller that does double duty as a poignant tale of a love challenged by the indignities of Alzheimer’s and the corrupt judicial system that refuses to acknowledge them.
Woodrow “Woody” Wilson has begun to forget things. He’s having not just the typical memory slips that increase as a man enters his 80s, but telling lapses such as not recognizing family members or believing their good intentions. When such moments arise, Woody takes off in his truck, and his loving son, Waylon, and wife, Maggie, tail him as he revisits cherished places from his past. One day, however, Woody ditches his truck and disappears with an unknown man. The family enlists the help of investigator Sherwood “Shot Glass” Reynolds, a recovering alcoholic who witnessed his own father’s battle with dementia. Reynolds soon identifies the stranger as Linus Schmutzer Jr., aka Doc Smooth, a psychiatrist forced to resign for conducting unauthorized experiments on Alzheimer’s patients. Yet all is not as it seems, as Waylon and Reynolds unravel a wartime connection between the abductor and abductee that stretches back to Auschwitz. A dangerous lapse into dementia leads Woody to hold a deputy at gunpoint, which results in his arrest. His court-appointed lawyer, Pythagoras “Thag” Clemons, lives a woebegone existence that makes Reynolds’ sad life shine by comparison. Thag is also painfully familiar with Alzheimer’s, and he joins the motley crew, which soon includes Woody’s cellmates, in an audacious plan to get justice for the ailing World War II veteran. Woodfin (The Lazarus Deception, 2013, etc.), an attorney with several thrillers to his name, expertly combines the detailed machinations of the legal system with a fast-moving, twisting plot that leads to an unanticipated climax. His tender portrayal of Woody and Maggie’s deeply felt love is a welcome surprise, as are the many near-poetic depictions of dementia that evoke pathos without a hint of sentimentality.
A fine thriller, with a bittersweet love story that lingers long after the last page.