A deranged and determined killer is on the loose in this psychological thriller set on a 1950s naval base.
Chief Kotch is a man on a mission–to destroy the young seaman who betrayed his trust and ruined his reputation a decade ago. Into his path steps Frankie White, a misguided cadet who has turned to the navy for redemption after a misspent youth. The two men work at the base’s dental office, the chief a decorated war hero, White a young trainee. Behind the chief’s polished record, however, is a dark secret: one of rage, paranoia and mental illness, all directed at the now deceased young seaman from long ago. Kotch, in his insanity, believes the young man not only to still be alive, but to be disguised as Frank White, with orders from the navy to kill Kotch. White is oblivious to Kotch’s dementia, and in a flurry of ambition, accepts a post under his command. From this chilling premise the story unfolds. As Kotch’s insanity grows, Frankie–and all the others on the base–become frighteningly aware that there’s a madman in their midst. Kotch’s swelling paranoia is suspenseful, though it becomes trite in its portrayal of sanity and success gone awry. Instances such as a screaming match with his image in the mirror are certainly startling, but tired. Similarly, Frankie’s story of troubled youth and attempted redemption is not drawn as thoughtfully or deeply as necessary to make him a sympathetic character, or even an innocent victim. The choice of all these characters to orbit around a dental office is banal and almost odd, given the larger setting of the military base. It’s a quick, easy read, but for a deeper portrayal of madness, stick with the classics.
A suspenseful but stock crime thriller.