Is there something in the water making people around the nation's capital commit crazy, unhinged acts?
After a respected doctor once disciplined for alcoholism and anger issues shoots several people to death and kills himself, it's assumed he suffered a relapse. But his friend and sponsor, emergency-room veteran Lou Welcome, isn't buying that and the mystery takes him all the way to the White House. In his 17th medical suspense novel, Palmer (A Heartbeat Away, 2011, etc.) draws on his experience helping doctors with dependency and mental-health issues. Unable to convince his superiors that his late colleague, Meacham, was fully recovered and not in need of psychiatric counseling, Welcome is suspended. After Meacham's wife commits a strange, reckless act and a young man bizarrely causes himself physical harm in a trendy local diner, Welcome crosses paths with the First Lady, Darlene, whose husband has been acting with uncharacteristic rage. The First Lady has learned that the former agriculture secretary, a school friend of hers forced to resign after being videotaped in a motel room with a naked underage girl, was framed. The president orders his wife to stay away from him, but acting on the instructions of an unidentified source with knowledge of who did the framing and why, the First Lady becomes determined to clear the disgraced secretary's name. Ultimately, Welcome and the First Lady team up against bad guys who will do anything to keep secrets.
This thriller raises compelling issues and features a likable hero, but the plot is dragged out and undercooked and the White House scenes ring false.