In this thriller, a military contractor’s suicide note sparks an amateur investigation into a conspiracy.
Richard Brown was happily married to Barbara and a good parent to their adopted son, Harold. Back in 1999, the boy’s violent rages seemed uncontrollable, but Dr. Joshua Zeev, a caring orphanage psychiatrist, developed a method to rein in what he called “berserker syndrome.” Joshua was so uniquely, if partially, successful that the Browns convinced him to move from North Carolina to Malibu, California, to serve as Harold’s dedicated psychiatrist. So when Richard commits suicide in 2017—in front of his volatile son, no less—Joshua is determined to understand why. In a note, Richard explains that his company has been “targeted by people I thought were our friends,” and he asks Joshua and Harold to find out more by using other notes he’s left behind. Guilt-ridden, Joshua questions his own abilities, but he aids Harold in probing the mystery with the assistance of Darla Johanson, Richard’s company spy. Before long, business rivals and a corrupt senator stand out as suspects in a tangled scheme. Harold and Joshua endure more than one tragedy but gain allies in what could be a much longer fight. In his debut novel, McPherson combines psychological mystery with romance as Joshua acknowledges his 18-year crush on Maria, the Browns’ housekeeper. At one point, however, Maria is said to have “the beauty and fire of all Hispanic women,” a clichéd, stereotypical characterization. Some elements of the story, though, will pique reader interest, such as the berserker syndrome diagnosis and the overall political/corporate conspiracy. However, many loose ends are left at the end of this first installment, such as who’s actually behind said conspiracy as well as the fate of Harold’s half brother, Bill. The action is also slowed at times by unnecessary description, including the logistics of Barbara’s funeral dress.
A novel with some intriguing elements that falters on characterization.