A psychiatrist and an attorney help a schizophrenic woman institutionalized for murder whose family seems suspiciously indifferent to her potential release in Hayes’ debut thriller.
All the evidence in the fatal stabbing of Angel Ramirez points to Katherine Van Hoerne, daughter to Texas oil magnate Josiah Mantooth and wife of Sen. Clay Van Hoerne. Her father succeeds in getting a judge to declare Katherine mentally incompetent, thereby avoiding a trial by having her committed. Five years later, Katherine’s increasingly erratic behavior entails self-mutilation, and Dr. Ellie Dodds believes her only hope is Thymetrazine. Her family, however, won’t OK an experimental drug treatment, so Ellie hounds Katherine’s lawyer, Jackson Polke, who eventually agrees. Mantooth retaliates with a motion to remove Jackson as Katherine’s lawyer and a threat of a civil suit and disbarment. Jackson loses his job, giving him and Ellie time to look into the Mantooth/Van Hoerne clan, which seems to want Katherine to stay mum in the institution. Delving into the families, however, exposes much more than Jackson and Ellie could have guessed, including a history of mental illness, political corruption, blackmail, and possible murder. Ellie, meanwhile, learns that Katherine has dissociative identity disorder as well as schizophrenia, and the doctor’s encounter with two menacing men could mean that she and Jackson are close to the truth. The credible amateur investigators bolster this novel. The duo wisely convinces Cmdr. Ramon Hinojosa, who’d worked the Ramirez murder, to officially reopen the case. Ramon’s cop status gives him clout, for example, to exhume a body, while his involvement deepens the mystery for readers, particularly once he realizes case files are missing. Hayes’ story is often somber, not surprising since Katherine’s history involves a mother who apparently killed herself and a half sister just as sick as Katherine. But there are moments of brightness, most notably Ellie’s rhinoceros-sized and protective malamute, Lola. Big reveals abound in the final act: numerous family secrets and a shocking murder in the midst of the investigation. Hayes injects plenty of plot twists into the mix, and while a few are predictable, others are positively bombshell-worthy.
Possesses the prerequisites for a solid mystery, but the protagonists are the true gems.