A staff psychologist at a disaster shelter must deal with an imminent hurricane and a murderer among the stir-crazy group in this thriller.
As a Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System volunteer, Dr. Persephone “Seph” Smith becomes deployable when the president deems a disaster large-scale. This includes approaching Hurricane Ignatius, sending the Philadelphia psychologist to a decommissioned Air Force base in Texas. Seph gets the 12-hour night shift and quickly spots a few evacuees who may pose psychiatric concerns, most noticeably homeless veteran and possible paranoid schizophrenic Carol. But it’s not long before someone turns up with multiple stab wounds. Seph offers to help Chief Shane Bishop track down the killer with her “enhanced empathy” that allows her to establish deep, emotional connections to others and determine who’s capable of murder. The body count unfortunately rises and may be tied to signs of erratic behavior Seph witnesses from both evacuees and staff, in particular, paranoia. Outside assistance is hardly an option with Ignatius on its way and cell service down. Seph has no choice but to scrutinize the people in the shelter and decide whether they’re acting bizarrely due to pre-existing conditions or something more widespread. Delozier’s (Type & Cross, 2016) protagonist, in a 2006-set prequel to the author’s preceding novel, is an unusual but enthralling detective. Her curious ability shapes her as a character, with all that empathy responsible for nightmares that have plagued her since childhood. But it doesn’t seem to be much of a tool for sleuthing, at least not in this narrative; the resilient Seph works out what’s happening and formulates a solution using general intuition. Nevertheless, the surprising tale’s isolated setting is intensified by characters butting heads (for example, Bishop versus in-charge Dr. Annie Parrish) and supplemented by references to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (even in names, like Dr. Dodgson). Seph’s shrewdness comes through in vivid and detailed descriptions, as she notes others’ quirks: a fidgety someone swiping “at a lock of frizzy, gray hair sticking to her damp forehead.”
An unconventional mystery that’s smart and unpredictable.