A judgment on the world stage tests the ethical resolve of a scientist troubled by the crimes of war.
Canadian neurologist and award-winning writer Durcan (A Short Journey By Car, 2004) plumbs his stock in trade to inform this audacious literary debut, its purpose no less than finding a window to the soul. When Boston-based neurologist Patrick Lazerenko arrives inauspiciously at the Hague on a miserable November day, even his cab driver knows who he’s here to see. The city is gripped by the trial of Hernan García de la Cruz, a Honduran physician whose alleged complicity in CIA-backed torture earned him the sobriquet, “The Angel of Lapaterique.” The good doctor refuses to speak in the courtroom but Lazerenko’s memories portray a once-decent man corrupted by the kismet of politics. In fact, García was once a father figure to Patrick, whose rough, ill-disciplined childhood was turned around by the doctor’s care and attention. Far from his humble roots, Lazerenko has built a successful company, Neuronaut, that uses magnetic imaging to assess what Patrick acidly describes as, “moral reasoning,” meaning his methods may be able to predict consumer behavior, the effects of different stimuli or possibly even a predilection toward harmful acts. Through the course of the trial, Lazerenko copes with his own pressures, including a hard-nosed and accusatory investigative reporter from Baltimore, a tenuous romantic reunion with García’s daughter Celia and García’s defense attorney, who wants him to use his peculiar scientific skills to clear his friend’s name. With his company in a tailspin, Lazerenko struggles to understand García’s actions and reconcile his own disquieting sense of dread. “How do you dislike parts of a man?” he muses. The author’s expertise may lie firmly in the field of science, but his shrewd, intricate debut reveals a multitalented artist.
A fascinating construct that asks whether men go wrong in the heart or in the head.