(Reviewed by Ann Wilkes JAN 19, 2007)
"If you could forget the worst moment of your life--would you?" Sorenson said.
"No one can forget."
"But if you could, would you? Forget all the trauma associated with killing this Andy person.""Yes," Miles said. "Yeah, I would."
"I killed my best friend." Who can resist a first line like this? Jeff Abbott weaves a multi-layered spy thriller that is one cliffhanger after another. The thing everyone wants, everyone is killing or dying for is a drug called "frost," It's a pill for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) sufferers that, in conjunction with therapy, breaks the chain of automated heightened responses to traumatic memories. A timely subject. With so many of our soldiers coming home with PTSD, it's becoming a household word yet many people only have a casual understanding of what the disorder is and how it cripples its victims.
Miles Kendrick, our hero, is just such a victim. I love it when an author's protagonist is flawed or handicapped. Real heroes are real people, right? Miles is haunted by his dead friend, Andy. He can't seem to shake him even though he knows his traumatized brain is just manufacturing this interactive hallucination.
"You should have died with her," Andy said, running alongside him…
Miles, a former investigator, is wanted by the mob at the onset. He becomes Michael Raymond when he enters the federal witness protection program. The threat from the mob takes a backseat after his therapist slips him a note asking for help. When he shows up late for his meeting with her, he finds her office blown to bits. Believing he could have prevented her death, he sets out to solve her murder and presses on against all odds because of his underlying need to atone for Andy’s death, too.
"Is that the idea?" Andy said, sitting on his bed. "Avenge her--a charming concept--and you're well adjusted again and I vanish. You're kidding yourself Miles. You and I are a team. Forever."
Miles can’t go to the police because the witness protection program would have to relocate him. Consequently, the people that he teams up with are fellow PTSD sufferers that he runs across as he learns about frost. Celeste is the pretty "Survivor" show winner now suffering from extreme agoraphopia. She ventures out of her house, stepping over a dead body, to help him; a tremendous feat for her. The third member of his impromptu team of investigators, Nathan Ruiz, is an unstable firebug whom Miles rescued from being tortured by one of the people who is after frost and him.
About half way into the novel it seemed that one character was waving a gun at another every half a dozen pages. It kept the suspense up but seemed a bit contrived. As though it was an action movie that had to keep an audience with a short attention span on the edge of their collective seats. Also, Abbott's characters sometimes did things which I thought they should know better than to do, but when you're dealing with broken people, perhaps that's allowed. Then again, their disability shouldn't affect their common sense, in this reader's opinion.
PTSD as a subject, fascinates me. I read this book during the same week in which I caught the tale end of a news story on 60 Minutes on CBS about a drug already available as a high blood pressure medicine that was being tested for removing or at least blunting the offending memories of a PTSD sufferer. Abbott touches on current scientific research in his acknowledgements and it shows. The question, "If you could forget the worst moment of your life--would you?" simmers in Miles' brain whenever he's not being chased, shot at or holding a gun on someone. Many people may be wrestling with that question in the near future. I hope there will be a sequel to explore the down side and evil people turning Frost into a weapon.
If you want to know more about PTSD or worse, struggle with PTSD, irrational fears or know someone who does, Abbott's treatment of the subject makes it worth picking up and the non-stop suspense may prevent you from putting it down.
- Amazon readers rating: from 4 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Fear at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Jordan Poteet Mysteries:
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- Official website for Jeff Abbott
- Shots Mag interview with Jeff Abbott
- Chapter excerpt from Panic
- Mystery Ink review of Panic
- Bookloons review of Fear
- BookReporter.com review of Fear
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About the Author:
Jeff Abbott was born in Dallas in 1963 and grew up in Austin and Dallas. He graduated from Rice University with a degree in History and English, and worked as a creative director at an advertising agency before turning his attention to writing.
Jeff is a three-time nominee for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time nominee for the Anthony Award, given at Bouchercon (aka the World Mystery Conference.) Jeff's first novel, Do Unto Others, won both the Agatha Award and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel.
He lives in Austin with his wife and two sons.