Desmond’s (For Thou Art With Me, 2005) thriller features a California doctor caught up in a conspiracy surrounding the death of a Civil War re-enactor and his daughter.
Dr. Hank Houston, a part-time gun dealer and pilot with his own Cessna, is being held prisoner in Maryland. It’s his connection to friend and patient Matthew Sweet, an accountant and Civil War re-enactor, that’s gotten the doc into hot water. Sweet’s daughter, Dana, died under mysterious circumstances; then Sweet, too, dies unexpectedly. Despite the drugs being fed to Hank during his incarceration, he keeps focused on the events of the past year as he unravels a conspiracy that’s been hidden in a most unlikely place: the Federal Accounting Office in Washington, D.C., where Dana was working while she finished writing her thesis. Red herrings abound: Father and daughter spend their weekends re-enacting Confederate battles; Sweet and his wife haven’t had sex for 10 years. But after dozens of chapters devoted to Civil War battles, it becomes apparent that these scenes are just taking up space. As for Hank’s interest in the Sweets’ love life, there isn’t much room for sex—or character development—in the novel next to all the abstruse information about governmental conspiracies, past and present. The at-times clever plot—all those details about medicine, flying and gun dealing are there for a reason—ultimately depends on a hard-to-believe coincidence. Unfortunately, what could have been an engrossing premise is bogged down by a brain dump of unnecessary information. Difficulties with tense and point of view, as well as time and setting, will also confuse readers, as will the occasional repetition of the same material from one page to the next. Additionally, the dialogue and the novel’s most dramatic scenes are conveyed in such a flat tone that readers will find it hard to be drawn in to the story.
Long on earnestness but short on polish.