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Posts Tagged ‘amnesia’

BLACKOUT by David Rosenfelt: Book Review

Doug Brock is a New Jersey police detective.  He’s honest, aggressive, and, some would say, a loose cannon in his pursuit of criminals.  So it’s no surprise that when Blackout opens he’s been suspended from the force for failing to follow orders.  But, Brock being Brock, that doesn’t deter him from following leads, even as he ends up in a hospital room, unable to remember the events of the past decade.

Doug had been mentoring an orphaned teenager whom he coached in baseball.  He was planning to adopt Johnnie Arroyo as soon as possible.  One night, as they walked along a Teaneck, New Jersey street after dinner, shots were fired at them from a passing car.  Despite Doug’s effort to shield Johnnie, two bullets passed through the young man’s body, killing him instantly.

Certain that he knows the man behind the murder, Doug disobeys orders and starts his own investigation.  Even being put on indefinite suspension doesn’t stop him, and in his downward spiral he has broken off his engagement to fellow officer Jessie Allen.  And then comes his phone call to his partner, Nate Alvarez.

Nate is frankly tired of the emotional basket case that Doug has become.  He’s received too many phone calls about Doug’s unofficial search for Johnnie’s killer, each one more strident and over-the-top than the one before, so only the fact that he’s Doug’s best friend keeps him on the line this time.  In the midst of the call, with Doug telling Nate to call the FBI, the phone on Doug’s end is dropped and Nate hears the devastating sound of two gunshots and then two more.  Then silence.

When Doug awakens five days later from his drug-induced coma, not surprisingly he’s exhausted and weak, barely able to speak.  However, much worse than that is the fact that he believes it is 2005, a decade earlier than the actual date, and that he is twenty-six, ten years younger than his true age.  He’s suffering from retrograde amnesia, with no guarantee that his memory of the last ten years will ever return.

Blackout is a gripping thriller that will captivate the reader from the first chapter.  The police department tells Brock that he apparently was investigating Nicholas Bennett, an important crime figure in the state, but as it’s obvious that Doug has no memory of Bennett or his probable connection to the shooting of Johnnie Arroyo, they withhold some pertinent information from him.

However, there’s enough information for Brock to disregard his captain’s orders to start back to work slowly; he’s frantically hunting his memory for his connection to Bennett and the reason why the crime boss would have tried to have him killed.

All the characters in the novel are terrific–Doug Brock, determined to regain his memory and discover what led to the shooting; Nate Alvarez, trying with little success to rein in his partner and finally agreeing to help him fill in the gaps in his memory; Jessie Allen, the woman Doug can’t remember he was engaged to; and Nicholas Bennett and Ahmat Gharsi, two men of widely disparate backgrounds who are working together to commit a horrific crime.

You can read more about David Rosenfelt at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.



WALKING HOMELESS by Al Lamanda: Book Review

A man on the ground.  A policeman  stops to see if he needs help.  The man rises and two other men come out of the shadows.  One smashes the cop on the head, another grabs his wallet and his gun, and the third gets ready to give the order to shoot.  Then another man appears.  Seemingly without effort, he disarms the man with the gun and kills all three of the attackers.

Walking Homeless by Al Lamanda takes us on a trip through the Cardboard Box City of Lower Manhattan, the place where the homeless, alcoholic, and drug-addicted men and women went to live after they were removed from the newly upscale Times Square.  Among these is John Tibbets.  All he knows about himself is his name.  He’s been on the streets for about three years, brought by a doctor to a Catholic shelter where he sleeps, when he’s able to.  He spends his days stopping cars and washing their windshields for pocket money; he spends his nights having violent dreams that always end with people dying.  But why is John having these dreams?  He has no idea.

After saving the policeman’s life, John becomes a media sensation.  Newspapers, magazines, and national television stations all want a piece of him.  And so do several mysterious men.  They want him alive but will take him dead if that’s their only option.

The reader knows there’s something pretty scary about John.  The way he handles himself, his presence of mind under extreme pressure–this is not your average homeless man for sure.  Could he have been a military man before his amnesia set in?  A former policeman?  But his skills seem too extreme for that.  And what about his nightmares?  They are becoming more detailed, less fuzzy, although John is still a long way away from figuring out who he is and why men are after him now.  As we follow his dreams, we know that this is no innocent, that there are things in John’s background that are too painful to face.  But that still doesn’t explain why he’s being followed.

This is an intimate look into the dark side of Manhattan or, for that matter, any city that simply wants to forget its homeless, its mentally ill, its most vulnerable. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the motto of those in charge.  This novel has a strong sociological bent, even with all its violence.  And there’s plenty of that.

Walking Homeless is a stunning book.  Besides being an excellent thriller, its underlying message makes you think about how we, as a society, view the neediest, least capable among us.  It’s not a pretty picture.

Apparently Al Lamanda doesn’t have a web page.  Aside from the fact that the back jacket says he comes from Maine, I couldn’t find out anything about him.  There’s virtually nothing on the Internet.   Could it be that that’s not his real name?  Another mystery to be solved.