Bain, longtime ghostwriter to TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote: Domestic Malice, 2012, etc.), emerges from the shadows to tell how the hit-and-run murder of a D.C. psychiatrist leads a clinical psychologist to a vast CIA-funded brainwashing project in this Margaret Truman Capital Crimes novel.
Every morning, Dr. Mark Sedgwick walks across Virginia Avenue from his apartment on one side of the busy street to his office on the other. One morning, a woman in a white car takes deadly aim and runs him down. The Metro Police Department traces the car to Sheila Klaus, who just happens to be a patient of Dr. Sedgwick’s. Betty Martinez, Dr. Sedgwick’s receptionist, reluctantly reveals that the psychiatrist took his patient on several trips to the Lightpath Psychiatric Clinic in San Francisco. But, his companion was ticketed as Carla Rasmussen. Sheila’s insistence that she knows nothing about Lightpath, Carla or Sedgwick’s death rings so true to Dr. Nicholas Tatum, a psychologist who works part time at the MPD’s Criminal Behavior Unit, that he convinces his friend, attorney Mackensie Smith (Monument to Murder, 2011, etc.), to represent her. Nic sees Sheila as a “Dionysian”—a highly suggestible hypnotic subject—and suspects Lightpath’s director, Dr. Sheldon Borger, of using her to kill Sedgwick. But Borger has still bigger fish to fry. Working with funding provided through CIA operative Colin Landow, Borger recruits Iskander Itani, a Lebanese boxer with chronic pain and a grudge against Israelis. Under the guise of curing his headaches, the hypnotherapist grooms Itani to assassinate presidential contender George Mortinson, whose progressive agenda annoys Borger. Whether Nic can connect the dots from Sedgwick to Borger to Itani is nobody’s guess.
What starts as a pedestrian accident ends up as pedestrian storytelling that not even a CIA-sponsored, hypnotically induced, politically motivated murder can jazz up.