Potent, character-driven thriller about personality manipulation and brainwashing.
Marshall (The Straw Men, 2002) ignites his exciting narrative in a clever, back-handed fashion with a gruesome double murder followed by an initially baffling flashback to the suicide of a girl named Donna. It all comes together when successful Chicago lawyer Gary Fisher calls up Jack Whalen, a former high-school acquaintance who offered some words of comfort after Donna killed herself over Gary. Why does Fisher want to see him? Because Whalen used to be with the LAPD and is now a writer living in Seattle, where that double murder took place. Its victims were the wife and son of Bill Anderson, an inventor linked to an estate Fisher’s law firm is handling. Fisher convinces Whalen to investigate the case further. After all, the writer’s not getting much work done while worrying about the strange behavior of his wife Amy. An advertising exec who travels frequently, she’s been failing to turn up in places she’s supposed to be or disappearing altogether for no discernible reason. She’s also been frequenting a bogus storefront office in downtown Seattle in the company of other oddly acting characters. Meanwhile, a missing nine-year-old girl whose memory has been erased turns up at various places in Seattle, including Amy’s advertising offices, displaying a new and strangely mature personality. All of these changeling personages have contact at some point with a dangerous creep who calls himself Federal Agent Shepherd. Marshall uses Fisher’s and Whalen’s personal histories to give some chilling psychological depth to his spooky portrait of disgruntled obsessives forming secret societies to search for “hidden truths.”
Subtle, satisfying—and really scary.