HALF WORLD by Scott O'Connor


Email this review


The hunters are the haunted in a thriller from Los Angeles–based author O'Connor (Untouchable, 2011, etc.) that mines the depths of fact and fiction.

This is a book of halves—split between 1956 and 1972. Henry Gladwell is very good at what he does: breaking men through involuntary drug experiments for the CIA in San Francisco in 1956. Across the bay in Oakland, he is Henry March, a husband, father and calculating man obsessed with his dirty work. His daughter lives in fear of atomic disaster, his son is autistic, a railroad train in a human body, and Henry fights the horror of himself, pushing away from them all. “He could not be there, in the house. Not with what he carried.” It is a world of “ghosts” that is intimately gripping. Henry disappears at the end of an LSD torture session that has gone wrong. The tough, pragmatic CIA spook is broken, utterly and finally. Sixteen years later, another operative, Richard Ashby, takes on a cover as Dickie Hinkle, put into motion by a new set of controls in Washington. Dickie creeps through a seedy Los Angeles hunting a band of bank robbers who leave pamphlets on government conspiracies in the pockets of their victims. Someone has connected the dots—the leather-bound ledger that Henry maintained on his experiments to the irrational pamphlets to a series of pulp novels based on psychiatric torture—all circling the illicit CIA experiments with Stormy, their pet name for LSD. O’Connor writes with fire, moving the story along briskly. Hannah, Henry’s daughter, becomes the “ghost catcher,” teamed with Dickie to find her lost father. Photography is the parallel passion between father and daughter, and in this dark world, photographs are the only handhold on reality.

An invigorating historical thriller that examines the boundaries of man.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-1659-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2013


IndieDÉJÀ VU  by Anthony  De Luca
by Anthony De Luca
NonfictionACID TEST by Tom Shroder
by Tom Shroder
FictionSLINGSHOT by Matthew Dunn
by Matthew Dunn