The quick-witted Dr Monks is one of mystery fiction's more original series leads, and this new novel shows that he is a long way away from outstaying his welcome. Bring on the next one!
As he lies, bound and hidden, on the floor of his abductors' SUV, Carroll
Monks is only dimly aware of the bizarre series of high-profile murders sweeping
across the nation. What he thinks about instead, as they travel for hours deep
into the Northern California wilderness, is that the face of one of his
abductors belongs to his own son, Glenn -- long estranged and living (the last
Monks knew) on the streets of Seattle.
The vehicle finally stops. When Monks is untied and steps out, he sees he's been brought to a remote off-the-grid community where paramilitary training and methamphetamine make for combustible, uneasy bedfellows -- and that Glenn has fallen under the spell of a disenfranchised countercultural sociopath known simply as Freeboot, who claims that a revolution "of the people" is already under way. Monks is appalled by Freeboot's violent histrionics and Manson-like affinity for the hidden messages buried within Lennon and McCartney lyrics, yet acknowledges that he hears echoes of his own feelings when Freeboot speaks about the disintegration of workers' rights, the escalating differential between the haves and the have-nots, and the slap-on-the-wrist "justice" doled out in cases of billion-dollar corporate malfeasance. Could this well-armed madman actually have his finger on the pulse of the underclass?
The reason Monks has been abducted, he soon discovers, is Freeboot's own son, a four-year-old boy who is deathly ill -- a conundrum for Freeboot, whose distrust of institutional America (hospitals included) borders on the psychotic. Monks, an ER physician, has been brought in to care for the boy, but he can see immediately that the boy's condition is acute and that only immediate hospitalization will save him. When Monks's pleas fall on deaf ears, he fashions a daring escape during a snowstorm, with the young boy slung across his back -- and brings the wrath of a madman down on himself and his family, culminating in a diabolically crafted "revolution" -- a recreation of Hitchcock's The Birds, but with human predators, unleashed on the town of Bodega Bay, California.
Carroll Monks was planning a trip to Ireland. His grandfather
had grown up near Kilrush, on the west coast, before emigrating to the States.
Monks had seen a photo of the place -- a stone hovel in a barren field, miles
from the nearest tiny village.
But Monks himself had never set foot on Irish soil. Why that was so was a puzzle even to him. The only answer he could give was that his life for the past thirty-odd years seemed to have been one long struggle to stay on top of whatever he was doing, while stumbling toward the next goal -- college, medical school, five years in the navy, getting established in practice. Then marriage, children, divorce, and the thousands of vicissitudes that went with all that. Most of the traveling he had done had either been out of necessity, or vacations that were aimed at pleasing his children.
But the lapse was still inexcusable, and he was going to rectify it, come next March. He was not in search of his roots -- he ...
The Dr Monks series:
McMahon is currently writing a stand-alone novel set in Montana,...
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