In this debut mystery/thriller, a doctor loses his short-term memory and learns over and over again that his wife has been murdered.
Dr. Chris Barnes, a talented but arrogant Boston cardiac surgeon, is in the midst of marital strife when he gets a bad case of food poisoning—one so acute that he wakes up in the hospital without the ability to form new memories. His brain has been affected by a neurotoxin, which means that each day he must relearn everything that’s happened since he fell into a coma, including the fact that, while he was unconscious, his wife was murdered. As a result, Barnes must not only rebuild his old life, but also navigate his current one as he investigates his wife’s murder. Apseloff takes a few chapters to hit his stride, but he sets up the mystery quite well; each suspect has believable motivations, and several possible conspiracies simmer on the back burner. Unfortunately, at more than 400 pages, the novel is a bit overlong; at times, it veers away from the plot into needless repetition and embellishment; what should be a taut, fast-paced thriller lingers on too many details, getting bogged down in discussions of medical procedures and descriptions of Boston’s restaurants and architecture. It is also unclear (until the epilogue) exactly when the novel takes place, and as a result, it occasionally feels somewhat dated—particularly in some characters’ approaches to issues of race and sexual orientation. Overall, however, the novel has more successes than missteps. Apseloff has a flair for the mystery genre, and when the book tightens its focus, the plot moves along nicely; Barnes’ frustration and newfound feelings of alienation are palpable, and his relationship with his wife is realistically nuanced. The story picks up steam as it goes, and although it wraps up the mystery a little too quickly, it ends on a strong note, staying true to its protagonist’s earlier struggles.
A slightly uneven but engaging read that should satisfy fans of mysteries and medical dramas.