An online marketing consultant, an avid reader of 400 + books a year. Professional reader, reviewer, and blogger. Enjoy ARCs and new releases.
By Glen Aspeloff
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 6/2/2015
My Rating: 3 Stars
A special thank you to Amazon, Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
DYING TO REMEMBER, a medical mystery saga, by Glen Apseloff of one man's journey--a victim of food toxins, loss of memory, a family murdered, and a conspiracy--leaving a surgeon, trying to solve the pieces of his life.
As the book opens, Dr. Christopher Barnes is dreaming about an upcoming surgery, when he awakes with a weird feeling. He had moved out of his marriage home in Boston a week earlier into the Ritz. However, he realizes he is a patient at the moment, versus a surgeon.
He recalls his abdomen contracted in spasms, the violent sickness, from poisoning from mussels. He realizes his wife Elizabeth is not here but he recalls a woman, Cheryl, a dinner, a hotel. They had met a year earlier at a symposium. He had ordered escargot in garlic and butter sauce, and as an entrée, North Atlantic mussels in a white broth. He is thinking it will pass; however, it could be bacterial. However, soon thereafter they are headed to the hospital as he convulsed on the stretcher, and then he was not breathing, an ET tube, coma, and loss of memory.
In the meantime we hear from his wife, Elizabeth Barnes, an orthopedic surgeon, recalling an earlier very heated argument with her husband, Chris. Both she and her husband routinely received calls in the middle of the night. Now she is receiving a call from the hospital about her husband. She cancelled her surgeries for the day and took the first flight out to Toronto.
While she revisits the past, when she moved to the US after completing medical school in London and had become an American citizen only after marrying Chris. The pregnancy now threatened to tear them apart. When she had told him, he was outraged, as he could not control this. She decided she would have the baby with or without him. But she only hoped it was his.
She had never planned on having an affair, certainly not with a neighbor, Marshall, a teacher of creative writing at MIT. His wife had been killed by a reckless driver ten months before. She met as they were walking their dogs and shortly thereafter began writing her poems. After their fourth walk together the affair begun. She did not want to lose Chris. She could not get caught. Either man could be the father.
Now Chris is in a coma in Toronto, and what if he never recovered? The confession of the baby had left him furious, she could only imagine what he would say if he heard the baby may not be his.
Later back in Boston Elizabeth has returned from her trip, at home thinking about her future, when the doorbell rings. We learn she has been gunned down, murdered at her home along with the dog. At the time of the murder, Chris lay comatose in a Toronto hospital.
Flashing back to Chris, eleven days later he opens his eyes and they remove the respirator. He asks about his wife. When the nurse explains it is Dec 9, 1987. He is trying to remember what he was doing when he came to the hospital. A naked woman, Cheryl? Soon the physicians realize has short term memory impairment. The specialist informs him he has had a bout of food poisoning and the toxins have destroyed much of his medial temporal lobes, while they work to try and improve his memory. He learns of the murder.
Since this would be a high profile case, normally in such types of homicide investigations, the husband is always a suspect, or could have hired someone to kill her?
His memory comes and goes, very similar to Alzheimer’s and dementia. When Barnes leaves the hospital, he is instructed to write down his thoughts daily and post them throughout the house. When looking at this watch, he has to remember to put the note in his right pocket. He also has to write himself messages, as reminders --each minute he may forget something important. He will need to post them in every room on his house, as his mind slowly unravels.
To further complicate matters, Chris is determined to find out what happened to his wife. Despite the mounting of evidence against him, he could not believe he would harm Elizabeth. Then he receives a letter demanding $10,000 and to deposit it immediately. Could this be a gambling debt, or did he hire a hit man to kill her and no recollection of the events? He also finds a love letter written to Elizabeth with part of the pages missing. An affair, and if so with whom?
Next readers are introduced to an array of characters, Shirley a colleague of Elizabeth, his best friend, and Claire, an attorney, a lesbian, her college roommate, Claire’s current jealous lover/partner Darcie, a judge. All the while he has two detectives on his case daily and he cannot even remember what he did five minutes ago. What about his career, his surgeries?
He also finds a report on Elizabeth’s computer about a case she was working on involving a pharmaceutical company. Could any of this be connected and how? Also what about the letter, was she having an affair? What if the killer was after him next? He would need to start writing his notes in French, as these are his thoughts and what if someone broke in to gain this information?
He cannot remember anything from the previous day, and his doctors mention he cannot expect to retain new information for more than a few minutes. It is imperative to write it down immediately on a piece of paper, even he if recalls something from the day before. His notes and his diary entries are a reminder of his ability to form new memories, as his old ones have been severely damaged.
The good and the bad
Good: While the summary was enticing, a good set up, and of all people, toxins intrigue me as I suffer from MCS (multiple chemical sensitives), with severe food allergies (even preservatives and additives), and medications, with adverse reactions, with anaphylaxis (very scary and life threatening) and equipped with an Epi-pen at all times. I also enjoyed the diary and the notes. Dying to Remember had all the ingredients for a good medical mystery thriller, right?
The negative. A lack of emotion, suspense, or intensity. It was almost robotic, like someone was telling a story; however, failed to add feelings and emotions. It was also very disjointed. So many loose ends left dangling. You arrive at the ending, to discover the identity of the killer; however, no mention of all the other characters, to tie up loose ends you spend an entire book reading about. Very strange. I experienced no emotional connection to any of the characters. Barnes' character could have been so much more. As a reader you do not experience his desperation, or fear (an opportunity for some riveting scenes). A shame, as really wanted to like this one.
If you want a real medical thriller, would highly recommend TRAUMA, by Daniel and Michael Palmer (5 stars).