In this thriller, an investigative journalist suffers several near-death experiences while trying to clear his name after being falsely accused of murder.
After three years in Austin, Texas, as a TV investigative journalist, Peter Richards loses his job. Life only gets worse. Peter is ambushed during a prospective job interview with accusations he’d invented a story and ruined lives: “You’re a joke to this industry. A joke and a liar, Peter.” Not only that, the interview is recorded and shown on the 6 o’clock news. Peter becomes the chief suspect in the murder investigation of his neighbor Janice Walton. He’d seen suspicious activity—an albino florist picking up a banker’s box from Janice—and then witnessed a Department of Public Safety trooper shooting Janice. Peter calls 911, but evidence turns up implicating him. Not only that, the stress causes him a temporarily fatal heart attack. He’s revived and given a new “Electro-Flux heart,” but he’s arrested and handcuffed to the bed. Nevertheless, Peter manages to slip the hospital and investigation. Getting hold of the banker’s box, he discovers files related to a company called Endochrone, which has patented a new Alzheimer’s drug. Why were these files kept separate? What makes them dangerous to Endochrone? And is there any way out of the conspiracy that threatens to close its grip on Peter, his wife, and his child? In his debut novel, Barney writes an enjoyably fast-paced thriller that’s strengthened by Peter’s voice, which is intelligent, funny, and rueful: “I’m not really a block party kind of guy, I’m more of a sit at home and judge type of person.” Peter is a complex figure with an admirable ability to keep his head, and even minor characters get well-written back stories. The mystery twists and turns with unexpected developments, action, and suspense. Distracting errors abound, however: “You’re [sic] life, as you know it, is nothing but a small spec [sic] of sand on a beach the size of a million galaxy’s [sic].”
An entertaining, fast-paced, and thoughtful debut thriller.