Body Electric

Danegeld

 
No More Lies by Susan Squires
(LoveSpell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52566-6
****
Is there anything Susan Squires can’t do? Having written well-received historical and futuristic romance, Ms. Squires takes on romantic suspense, throws in a paranormal twist, and comes up with something truly exceptional. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is a real spellbinder of a book.

Psychiatrist Holland Banks, at 34, is at the top of her profession. With “groundbreaking studies in schizophrenia” to her credit, she’s now Director of Medical Services at Century Psychiatric Hospital and head of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation.

But the dreams that Holland has had since college are getting worse. In them, she believes one of her hands is evil, even inhuman. The tinnitus that has plagued her recently is escalating from a humming to a roar in which she hears voices. She’s afraid she’s being stalked. The voices and the paranoia sound all too much like the symptoms she hears from her patients.

Then, Holland’s father, a brilliant but narcissistic research scientist who scorns the ‘touchy-feely pseudoscience’ of Holland’s vocation, suddenly insists he needs her help. The subjects of his recent experiments are going insane and he needs to know why. Holland reluctantly agrees to consider the partnership, and is disappointed but not entirely surprised when he announces it as fait accompli at a press conference.

By then, the noise in her head is unbearable. She’s trying desperately to maintain a normal façade when the man she believes is stalking her appears in the crowd and appears to threaten her. Before anyone can prevent it, he approaches her – and when he touches her, the noise in her head disappears. Moments later he’s subdued and forcibly removed. Many at the press conference know her attacker; Jeff McQueen is a respected investigative reporter – who’s apparently lost his mind.

Baffled, Holland is relieved to find that Jeff is locked up in her own hospital. Against all the ethics of her profession, she knows she must take on his treatment in order to find out what’s happening to her.

From page one, this book grabbed me with its mile-a-minute pacing and plot twists. In retrospect, the entire situation seems crystal clear, even inevitable, but I think that’s because the author has been so faithful to her characters and the situation. And, because everything moves so fast, I was too busy dealing with immediate events to worry about predicting the next development.

This is definitely Holland’s story. She is by far the most well developed character: complex, interesting and sympathetic. It is fascinating to watch her transformation as the total control she has always exerted over her life disintegrates under what’s happening to her. She never completely loses her strength, but she does have occasional moments of weakness, which simply added to her depth.

Ms. Squires has done an exceptionally good job of rendering Holland’s troubled and contradictory relationship with her father as well as the bizarre realities of having people able to read your mind.

Jeff was sufficiently fleshed out to make him real and compelling as a character, but he was more of a catalyst and foil for Holland. There’s enough emphasis on the romance in the first half of the book to make it believable, but it definitely takes a back seat to the suspense story in the second half.

Some caveats. The blistering pace never lets up, so, at some points, it begins to feel a bit relentless – I can’t imagine reading it in one sitting. The science is a bit heavy sledding at times. Ms. Squires does a bit of a brain dump at the beginning of the book, explaining Holland’s father’s experiment. Try not to get hung up on it; if you don’t understand it the first time, later repetitions of the same information probably won’t help.

I suspect some readers will find the book a bit grim – the evil in this book is very evil. I personally didn’t object to the darkness, but there are a few shockingly graphic images of violence. It is, unfortunately, possible that this will be too much for some readers.

Overall, however, No More Lies is an amazing accomplishment. I wish there were more romantic suspense books on the shelves with this much power.

-- Judi McKee


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