What if you weren't who you thought you were, and behind the screen of false memories that convinced you of your identity was another, even more terrifying set of equally false memories, so awful that if anyone or anything made it past the first, artificially induced "firewall," you'd kill yourself rather than live with the horror of what you thought you'd done? That's the intriguing, if somewhat muddled, setup for John Case's (The Genesis Code) new thriller, which starts with the disappearance of Lew McBride, a young research psychologist, and the suicide of a beautiful but troubled young woman soon after she inexplicably guns down an old man in a wheelchair.
Adrienne Cope blames her sister Nico's death on Jeff Duran, the psychologist who's been treating Nico for the after-effects of the satanic sexual abuse she supposedly suffered in childhood, abuse that Adrienne has reason to know is a complete fiction. When the detective Adrienne hires to investigate Duran turns up proof that he's an impostor, Duran himself is baffled; his belief in his own identity is so convincing that he passes a lie detector test without breaking a sweat. Someone has stolen his mind: is it the same shadowy cabal that stole Nico's, too? When he and Adrienne finally join forces, their first stop is a neurologist, whose tests reveal an anomaly in Duran's brain, an implant that leads them to a Swiss clinic where a ruthless scientist has taken up experiments in brainwashing and mind control that the CIA shut down decades ago. Or did it? Case mixes neuroscience and geopolitics in a Manchurian Candidate-like scenario that's scary enough to make you wonder whether you ought to trust your own memory, let alone anyone else's. Both Adrienne and Jeff are likable innocents, caught up in a terrifying web spun by a faceless man with a Messiah complex. His plan to destroy anyone who gets in his way is exciting enough to keep the narrative from bogging down in all the technical details Case uses to buttress his suitably scary plot. --Jane Adams [via]