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by Ivan Weinberg
Curtis Brown, June 2015
328 pages
ISBN: 0692437428

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

At 28, Noah Shane is on his way to becoming a jaded public defender, having been attacked one too many times by another down-and-out defendant in a psych ward. While he's in this mindset, he receives a letter from a psychiatrist in a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Hawaii, complete with a plane ticket.

The psychiatrist, David Samson, has been arrested and charged with murder after one of his patients was stabbed to death with an army-issue knife. Samson insists that Shane must represent him, and not any other lawyer in Hawaii. Shane, in San Francisco, packs his bags. He figures that he will at least hear Samson out, and maybe make a small vacation of it.

But the secretive VA facility, in the jungles surrounding the volcano Mauna Kea, isn't exactly paradise. And his welcome is in the form of a patient, suffering from PTSD, who tries to kill Shane. Samson, it turns out, has been putting his patients on high doses of powerful anti-depressants, hoping to help them recover memories. All his patients, Vietnam veterans, have prewar amnesia. Not so coincidentally, all their records from the war are also lost. Someone, it seems, is trying to keep those memories buried. Despite his reluctance, Shane ends up taking on Samson's case.

This is a fast-paced legal thriller, with courtroom scenes that ring true and an interesting premise. The characters, however, are a bit cardboard and not very likable, including the hero, a commitment-phobic young man who beds three women before finally settling with one. Shane does have a good side, however, and does make some good decisions. If there's a second book, let's hope we see more of that and less of the "I'm too sexy" story line.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, September 2015

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