In Middlemist’s psychological thriller, a guilt-ridden hero seeks redemption for the mistakes he’s made in war and peace, at home and abroad.
Arthur Logan, a psychologically battered special ops veteran of the Iraq War, is fighting to regain his sanity and reassemble the pieces of his broken soul back home in America. He killed a 13-year-old Iraqi boy, crashed two fully laden passenger airliners, engaged in a knockdown fistfight with his father, and called in an air assault on a psychotic platoon leader. These and other assorted sins catch up with him, causing vivid hallucinations—or are the visions real? To help him on his quest for salvation, the ghost of Gen. George S. Patton leads Arthur on excursions to the Scale, a kind of limbo in which he’s hounded by Satan, chased by wraiths and attacked by golems made of excrement. After Arthur is committed to a military psychiatric prison, his dreamscapes only become more terrifying and bizarre, even as his psychiatrist struggles to help him recover—no easy task, given Arthur’s state of mind: “In bed that night, I imagined dragging a zipper around my head and lifting out my brain, dripping with bloody memories, engorged by violence.” Far-fetched and otherworldly as the story may seem, Middlemist delivers with taut writing, solid if not subtle characterization, inventive plotting and credible dialogue, although a significant suspension of disbelief is regularly required. Still, the manifestations of repentant Arthur’s terrifying visions remain ambiguous enough to segue believably into a living hell of his own making, whether or not it’s only in his head.
A dark, fast-paced, imaginative thriller in which the memory of war is hell.