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By Jeff Abbott
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Jeff Abbott
All rights reserved.
I killed my best friend.
Miles stared at the words, black in their clean lines against the white of the paper. First time to write the truth. He put the pen back to the pad.
I didn't want to kill him, didn't mean to kill him. But I did.
"Baring your soul fixes nothing." Andy sat against the edge of the kitchen table, watching him write. "She'll just hate you."
Miles said, "No, she won't."
Andy lit a cigarette, exhaled a blue cloud over the confession as Miles wrote. "You've lied to Allison for weeks ..."
"Lie's a bit strong."
"Not as strong as murder. Telling her what you did isn't going to make you better." He watched the smoke dance from the cigarette's tip.
"Shut up." Miles finished writing out his confession. Andy wandered to the kitchen, rummaged in the refrigerator, found an early-morning beer.
"Priests say confession is good for the soul, but this is an exceptionally bad idea. Even for your soul. We had a deal, Miles."
"This doesn't affect you." Miles signed his name—his real name, Miles Kendrick—at the bottom of the page. Allison had never seen his true name.
"You tell her what happened, it very much affects me." Andy slapped his hand on the table. "Let me read what you wrote." Miles slid the paper across the table to him, then went to the kitchen counter and poured black coffee into a cup. He usually drank his coffee first thing, but this morning he'd wanted to write the confession before he lost his nerve.
Miles went to the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face. Stared at himself in the mirror.
I used to be someone, he thought. I used to be me, a regular guy, the anybody American with a home and a business and a life, and now I don't know who I am anymore. The old me died. The new me doesn't want to be born.
"Lies!" Andy called from the kitchen.
Miles wiped his face and stepped back into the kitchen. "I'm telling the truth."
Andy slapped at the confession. "The truth you remember. Not the truth of what really happened."
"It's all I remember."
"You didn't save those cops."
"You know I did."
"And I think about the high price every day, Miles."
Miles stepped around Andy, took the paper, folded it, slipped it into an envelope. "I have to be honest with her."
"You're breaking our deal."
"The only deal we have is in your mind. I have to go. Don't be here when I get back."
"I don't want to get ugly, Miles," Andy said, "but you give her that confession, and I'll kill you."
Miles stopped by the apartment door. He yanked on his coat, slid the confession into his coat pocket.
"I will, Miles." Andy's voice was low and it prickled Miles's skin as if an ice cube ran along his ribs. "I'll slip a gun into your mouth. I'll pull the trigger. I'll settle the score." Andy paced the kitchen floor, arms crossed, glaring.
"You go ahead and try." Miles shut the door behind him and leaned against it. Then he hurried down the steps, past the comforting cinnamon smells of the bakery on the ground floor of his apartment building. He stopped right outside the building's front door, craned his neck out an inch, scanning both ways up the narrow streets, eyeing every car and pedestrian.
No one waited to kill him. No cars idling on the road, full of assassins to mow him down before he took five steps. He started his walk to Allison's office. He didn't drive anymore because he was afraid if the Barradas found him, they'd wire a bomb to his car's ignition. They'd blown up the last two people who had testified against them, scattering engine and glass and flesh across a driveway in Hialeah and an office parking lot near Miami. The center of Santa Fe, where he now lived and worked, was territory he could cover on foot. Santa Fe was so much smaller and quieter than the constant revving hum of Miami. He walked through the Plaza at the heart of the old city, past the Native Americans spreading turquoise and silver jewelry across black felt mats. He headed up Palace Avenue, past a beautiful young mother pushing a stroller with twin girls under a pink blanket, tourists ambling along an architectural route, joggers huffing in the crisp gray of the mountain morning. Jogging, Miles thought, he should try jogging. Good healthy exercise to heal all the rot inside him.
He glanced over his shoulder twice to see if Andy was following him. No Andy, although it wouldn't take him long to catch up if he decided to press his case.
The confession, inside his pocket, made a soft crinkling sound as he walked, and he smoothed the paper straight with a slide of his finger.
The paper would change everything in his life, once again.
He walked past the stone grandeur of Holy Faith Episcopal Church and the elegant Posada Hotel and Spa. Most of the homes along this stretch of Palace Avenue had been converted into office space. Allison Vance counseled in an old brick Victorian that stood out from the more common adobe-style buildings, its yard dotted with spruce pines and cottonwoods. The hum of a saw roared through an open upstairs window. The landlord was refurbishing the empty top two floors while Allison refurbished people's heads.
Miles went up to the house, glancing over his shoulder. Andy stood on the bricked sidewalk, huddled against the cold, his tropical print shirt and khakis out of place in the morning chill of a Santa Fe spring.
Go away, Miles mouthed at Andy.
"If you give her that confession," Andy said, "it changes nothing. It doesn't hurt me, it hurts you. You got me, Miles?"
Miles gestured at him to go.
"This ain't done." Andy tossed the cigarette onto the street, marched back toward the Plaza.
Miles found his breath and went inside. The door to his right read ALLISON VANCE, M.D., PSYCHIATRY. He opened it, stepped inside, rested his head against the door as he closed it.
"Good morning, Michael," Allison said to his back. "I'm glad you made it this morning."
"Made it early," he said. Certain days he couldn't face the appointment, the idea of sifting through the black sand of his memory, afraid of what he might unearth. "What's the matter?" he asked.
"Nothing at all," Allison said, and her tense expression faded. "Would you like a cup of green tea?"
He hated green tea but said, "Great, thanks." He took off his jacket, hung it on a hook—the confession still in its pocket—and sat down in the fat, worn leather chair across from hers.
She poured a steaming cup of tea and handed it to him.
"Thanks," he said.
"You look tired, Michael." It was his new-life name, one conjured up by Witness Security.
"I'm not a morning person." He sipped.
"You probably worked a lot of nights, being an investigator." Attempt number one to get him to talk. His being a former private investigator was one of the three nuggets of truth she knew about his old life.
"Nighttime is the right time," he said. "Cheating spouses often burn the midnight oil."
"Is that who you shot? A cheating spouse?"
Attempt number two, based on nugget number two. The dance remained the same; she would try to get him to talk about the horrible instant when his old life died, glean details he couldn't remember, and he would duck and run, hiding behind jokes and chatter. "No. I never carried a gun." The words came out like molasses dripping from his lips. Get up and give her the confession, he told himself.
Andy stood behind Allison. "What's wrong, Miles? Lose your nerve? Go ahead, tell pretty lady exactly what you did to me."
Miles froze. His skin felt like it had been slathered in ice. Andy had never set foot in Allison's office before. Miles glanced at his coat, where the confession lay. He looked at Andy. Andy grinned and shook his head.
"Michael? Is something wrong?" Allison leaned forward with a frown.
Miles hid behind a long sip of his tea. Steadied his breath against the rim of the cup. Looked up again. Andy made a gun of his fingers, fired it at Miles.
"Michael, every time I mention the shooting, you freeze up."
"I know." He set the tea down. "I don't want ... to not remember what happened anymore." The words felt thick in his throat. "I need you to help me."
She sat across from him. "Of course, Michael. This is a major step. Wanting to heal yourself—it's a critical element that's been missing from our work together."
"I don't want you to hate me," he said.
"I couldn't. Never." She offered a thin smile. "I think I understand you better than you know."
"Wait till you find out what I did," he said. "I don't even remember all the details of it—I can't."
"Your willingness to talk about your trauma is all that matters, Michael."
"I know I haven't been cooperative with you, but I want to be sure ... I stay your patient. You're the only one who can help me."
"I'll take it as a welcome compliment, thank you, but—"
He held up his hand. "Don't give me the shrink line about every therapist is good, blah blah blah. And I don't want you sending me to a hospital; I can't, I won't, go to one of those places, they're not an option."
An expression of surprise, or of disappointment, he couldn't tell which, crossed her face, then vanished with her nod. "No hospitals. And I welcome the change in attitude toward your therapy. Where would you like to start?"
Prep her for the confession, he decided. "I keep seeing the person I shot. I can't live this way, I can't have him on my shoulder all the time, so it's either get fixed or go even crazier."
Her expression might have been cut from steel. "Is he here now?"
"Yes. He's a fever I can't shake. He told me this morning he wanted to kill me."
"What's his name?"
Behind her, Andy crossed his arms. "I really resent you bringing this do-gooder between you and me, Miles."
"Let's talk about the shooting," Allison said.
"I told you, I don't remember all the details."
"We'll go slow. Start with where the shooting happened."
The first word caught, a stone in his throat, but he coughed and said, "Miami."
"I grew up there. So did Andy."
"Where in Miami did the shooting take place?"
"A warehouse. No one there but me and ..." He stopped; he couldn't look at her. Handing her the confession now seemed impossible. He steadied his breath; the burn of panic inched along his bones.
"Me and two policemen and Andy ..."
"The knife that's in the kitchen drawer," Andy said. "Wicked sharp. I'll put it in your hand, I'll help you draw a nice hot bath, and then you can slash your wrists, and we're cool again."
Miles stopped. "I want to be healthy again, I want my life back ..." He stood and he paced and put his face into his hands.
"Let me help you. Go back to the story."
"But I can't remember, I can't remember, how can you help me if I can't remember?"
"Small steps. You shot this Andy."
The pictures crossed his mind, a jumble, photos dropped at random on a floor. "We're laughing. Then—Andy freaked. He pulled a gun. Aimed at the head of one of the cops."
"And you shot him."
He sank into the chair. "Yes. But I don't remember it."
"Doesn't pretty lady deserve the truth," Andy whispered, "before you give her a letter full of lies?"
"Let's not try to remember," Allison said. "Let's just talk about what you visualize if you think about the shooting. That's different from the memory itself."
He sipped the green tea and wished the cup held bourbon. "I remember the laughing. But then the laughing stops and I raise the gun. I see Andy start to speak but I can't hear what he says. I pull the trigger. He shoots me."
"He shot you?"
"Yes. In the shoulder. I see him fall. I ..." The scar on his shoulder began to ache, throbbing like a heartbeat. Sweat coated his palms, the close air of the building tightened in his chest—the smell of the paint, the faint hammering two floors above him faded and suddenly the office disappeared, the chill of New Mexico that pressed through the windows replaced with the humid blanket of Miami, the gunfire boomed a ceaseless roar in his ears, echoing in the cavernous warehouse, drowning out Andy's scream, his own voice filled with shock and horror, the chock of the bullet hitting Miles's flesh, a cannonball of pain.
Miles ran his hand along his forehead. He felt feverish, sick. He steadied his hands, pressing them against the soft leather of the chair. He was here. Not there. He could not go back there. Never.
Michael wasn't his name and he didn't want to answer to it and then he remembered, yes, he was Michael now and forever. If he wanted to live.
"Yes," he said.
"You were having a flashback. You're safe. No one will hurt you."
"I'm safe," he repeated after her. He blinked.
She cleared her throat. "Tell me about Andy."
His hand wanted to reach for the confession, just give it to her, but he didn't want his hands to shake when he gave her the envelope.
"I want ... Michael, are you listening to me?"
He put his gaze on her. "Yes, Allison. But I don't want to remember any more. I'm sorry. I can't." End it, he thought. Tear up the confession, walk out. Never come back. Have Andy as the perpetual roommate until you die.
"You took a forward jump today. You said you want your health back, your life back. Fight for it, Michael."
"It's too hard." He found his breath again. "Let's talk about my mom and dad. Did I tell you my dad gambled a lot?"
"I don't think we can shy away from what you're facing with Andy. I want to introduce a new element to our therapy."
He heard, behind him, the door to her office opening.
Miles spun up from the chair, covered the five steps to the door, grabbed the man's neck, and pushed him hard against the wall. The man matched Miles's height and he closed a strong hand over Miles's hand, tried to wrench Miles's grip from his throat.
"Michael! Stop!" Allison yelled. "Let him go!"
Miles released his grip. The man had blond hair, blue eyes, a heavy build under the tailored suit. He gave Miles a cool stare.
"I dislike people coming up behind me," Miles said.
"Clearly," the man said.
"Michael. This is Doctor James Sorenson. I've known him for many years. He's done amazing work with people suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder."
"Then he should know not to sneak up on people," Miles said. "Sorry."
"I apologize ... if I frightened you," Sorenson said. For a big man, he had a soft voice, raspy, as though he felt few words pass his lips. He smoothed his suit lapel.
Miles didn't care for the underlying tone of Sorenson's voice, the slightly superior way in which he'd said frightened. He returned to his seat and faced Allison.
"I don't want another doctor," Miles said. A hot anger surged in his chest. This wasn't how a doctor as caring as Allison behaved, springing another doctor on him. It was wrong. It wasn't her.
"I know. But Doctor Sorenson is running a new program I believe could help you. Could give you your old life back."
The confession. It would stop this shift, keep this other doctor out of the picture. So get up out of the chair and give her the confession and stop being petrified of what she will think of you.
Andy, standing behind Sorenson, said, "It's not about what she thinks of you. It's about knowing exactly what happened when I died. That's what you don't want to remember. How you killed me."
"My old life ..." Miles shook his head at Allison, then at Sorenson. "I don't want my case discussed with anyone else."
"You don't need to worry about confidentiality, Michael," Sorenson said. "Your secrets are safe with me. I only want to help you."
Miles knew he could get up and leave. He didn't want to hand the confession to Allison, not with Sorenson here. Potentially reading what he wrote. No. Not now.
Sorenson seemed to study the indecision on Miles's face, and said, "I want to help. Your memories—whatever they are—must be very terrible to you."
"Less terrible than dying." He couldn't say, Andy died and I loved him like a brother. Best friend since I was three years old. He died and I killed him, God help me, God forgive me. I didn't mean to kill him. I didn't want to kill him. I was trying to save him.
Excerpted from Fear by Jeff Abbott. Copyright © 2013 Jeff Abbott. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Ransom Notes Interview with Jeff AbbottPaul Goat Allen: Jeff, congratulations once again on a fantastic -- and surprising -- read. The theme of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder was unexpected and deeply moving. I had no idea it affected so many people (as much as 10 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs). Where did the idea to make PTSD an integral thread throughout Fear originate? Jeff Abbott: I write about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary danger, so incorporating PTSD seemed a natural fit for my kind of character-driven thrillers. PTSD is such a misunderstood yet shockingly common malady -- it literally can happen to anyone. When you consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, terrorist attacks, natural disasters like the tsunami, and then the everyday horrors of car crashes, crimes, and physical assaults that can all cause PTSD, we need to understand better how to recover from violence. I have the deepest respect and sympathy for people dealing with PTSD; their struggle is one that any of us might have to endure. The main characters in Fear are everyday people who survived incredible tragedy, and their quest to reclaim their lives is at the heart of this thriller. PGA: There really are no archetypal protagonists or antagonists in Fear. All of the major characters are painted in varying shades of gray. How difficult was it to construct this story with so many deeply flawed and completely unpredictable characters? And did you have a "favorite" character as you were writing the book? JA: I think the three PTSD survivors in the book -- Miles, who is a federal witness hiding from the Mob; Celeste, who witnessed her husband's brutal murder; and Nathan, who survived a devastating attack in Iraq -- are all decent people. They've made terrible mistakes, and they're paying for them every day. But they also want to make up for those mistakes -- and they are willing to fight incredible odds to get their lives back. I think readers embrace characters seeking redemption: We all need to earn second chances at some point. My editor at Dutton told me the villain of Fear, Dennis Groote, might be the most interesting villain he's read in years. Groote, an FBI agent turned hit man after losing his family, commits absolutely terrible crimes, but all for what he considers the noblest of reasons. He is sure he's the hero of the story, and I loved writing him with his crazy mixed-up sense of brutality and devotion. But my favorite character is Miles -- a good man who lost his entire world in one horrifying moment but is going to fight for his sanity and his life. You can't help but root for Miles. He could be any of us. PGA: Phobias play a major part in Fear. Do you, or anyone you know, have any phobias that you used as fodder? JA: Let's just say I won't be seeing the movie Snakes on a Plane this summer. The phobias in the book upped the action and presented a fun but continual challenge for me. Celeste's phobia has kept her inside her house for two years, and someone's coming to kill her -- how do you get her out of the house? Miles is deathly afraid of riding in a car because he's sure they've been wired with bombs -- how do you get him from point A to point B when a hit man is hunting him? One of the things I loved about these characters was that they faced constant difficulties with their phobias and found clever ways to overcome them. PGA: There's a link to your MySpace blog on your web site (www.jeffabbott.com). For some authors, their blogs and web sites are absolutely instrumental in promoting their works and connecting with readers all over the world -- but I've heard some horror stories too concerning "overzealous" fans. What's your experience been like thus far? JA: I have the nicest and most supportive readers in the world; I've never had a serious problem. PGA: Speaking of your blog, you list your favorite movies as "anything by Hitchcock." Both Panic and Fear have a distinctly Hitchcockian style. Was Fear a kind of homage to his 1958 classic Vertigo, or was I taking the parallels way too far like I always do? JA: I wasn't consciously paying homage -- but certainly, like Vertigo, Fear also addresses issues of identity, of confronting our worst nightmares, of our need when broken to become whole again. Hitchcock was a genius with an unmatched talent for tapping into our deepest fears. I find a continual inspiration in his work. PGA: The tag line of Fear is: "What if you could forget the worst moment of your life?" Would you personally? JA: The question is a challenge to the reader -- but I don't think there is a simple answer. The drug research being developed to combat PTSD is controversial -- some say we should not blunt the horrors of the world, ever. Sometimes our tragedies make us stronger. But at the same time, should an abused child be forced to remember the terrors she survived when we could free her from the trauma? Should a soldier have to replay a war in his head for the rest of his life? I don't think so. For me personally, it would depend on what the worst moment was -- if one of horror, perhaps. If one of sadness, no. PGA: What's next for Jeff Abbott? JA: I'm working on a new stand-alone thriller. I never quite know where it's going to go until it's written -- it's how I discover the story -- so I can't say much about it, but it's fair to say the hero is a decent, ordinary guy who gets swept up into a dangerous world.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Brenda Ballard for Readers' Favorite Paths collide as three, no, make that more, people's lives intertwine when a secret medical project gets away from its researchers. Miles Kendrick, a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferer, is asked by his therapist to help her but before he can find out what it is ... she is murdered. Strong arms from several factions become visible and are aggressively seeking the stolen drug known as Frost. Hanging in the balance are countless memories meant to be forgotten, as many lives are to be altered positively forever, and the few caught in the middle who fear for their next breath. Fear, by Jeff Abbott, is possibly one of the most disturbing and exciting thrillers I have read in years. Although it is a little difficult to sink into the story line at the beginning, it all comes together at once and from there you will not be able to put it down! Fear will raise the hair on your arms, set your toes tapping, and leave you on the edge of your seat. It is so lifelike that conspiracy theories become real and will make you wonder about things you personally have witnessed in life. Jeff Abbott has an incredible imagination. He shares the twists of his stories in such a way that the reader feels as though they might be a third party to the activities. In one scene, I found myself clenching my jaw so hard that it made my ear hurt ... it is really that good!! Bravo to Mr. Abbott and thank you again for sharing your talent with the world!!
I enjoyed this book, finished it in two days. Surprising twists. I would recommend this book.
In Miami Miles Kendrick worked for the Barrada mob, but turned against them leading to his best friend¿s death and the FBI hiding him inside the federal witness protection program. He lives, a loose euphemism for it because many things are denied him. For instance he no longer drives a car out of a fear of a bombing, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Miles sees psychiatrist Dr. Allison Vance, who is trying to help him cope with what she has diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which developed after he inadvertently killed his best friend while assisting the FBI. --- Surprising Kendrick, Dr. Vance asks for his help, but soon after she is killed by an explosion in her office. He assumes the Barrada mob killed her, but learns she was involved with a new miracle drug Frost touted as curing PTSD he craves trying the drug. However former FBI Agent Dennis Groote turned hitman has other plans for Kendrick, other Vance patients and Frost. If Kendrick fails to control his fears, he will be dead when he and Groote confront one another. --- Though fans will need to accept some of the escapades, this is a superb action thriller that grips the audience from the onset and never slows down until the final altercation as the readers do not know how the antihero will react in the crisis due to the crippling fear he feels. Kendrick¿s desperation to try a potentially dangerous drug to control his fears serves as a metaphor for those with severe illnesses willing to try anything immediately and not wait for FDA approval (besides which their recent record is not to healthy). The story line is action, more action, and super more action as Jeff Abbott provides his fans with a one sitting on the edge of your seat thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Could have left out about the first 125 pages. But it finally got interesting and was good
I thought this book would have been more of a psychological thriller and was therefore disappointed. However, it was not a bad book just was not what I had in mind when purchasing the book.
Not a great read. I finished it but can't recommend it.
A guy in the witness protection program has psychological problems. He hooks up with two other patients of his shrink, and they have an action adventure. Main character is haunted by his best friend, whom he killed. Their "conversations" are very funny. Plot had too many details about things we didn't care about tho.
good writing and character protrayal. convuluted plot is complex to point of confusion due to many names (and aliasis) plus double crossing by some of them. there is action on virtually every page.
There are some spelling mistakes, but I guess that's just eleven-year-old me being obsessive. Liking it!
Kari put down his pencil, and flicked his tail in annoyance. School always made angels and humans sound bad. He sometimes wondered if tha is what really happened, but he couldnt argue with his history teacher. Kari stood up, and handed his essay in to his teacher. <br> <p> Kari was a demon in the lower realm in the town of Broken Pines, right on the border of human and demon realms. He had short horns and bright red eyes. Unfortunetly for him he had blond hair, a rarer trait, but he was constently looked down upon. Everyone else in town had black or brown hair, like most demons. His tail too was odd. Karis tail was thin, long, and felt like pigs hide, but softer. His tail also ended in a bit of fluff that looked like black flames when he moved it. All of this led to a kid who was convinced he might someday be an anime protaginist or something. <br> <p> The bell rang, and Kari hurried to pack his things. Once that was all said and done, he ran out of the building and- <br> "Going somewhere Coarl?" A demon steaped out of the shadows, flicking his reptillian tail. <br> "James. How nice to see you this fine afternoon. I would like to remind you that my name is not Coarl, its Kari." <br> "Coarl, Kari, same thing. Their both girls names. Lets take a look over here, behind the school, hm?" James grabbed Kari by the ear and dragged to spite the smaller boys protests. "Youre so weak, you might as well be one of 'em angels." <br> "What makes you think angel are bad. You havent met them, they can fly too," the larger boy started to lift Kari to throw him in the trash. "Wait! James-" <br> "Can it scrub," grunted James. <br> "If you dont throw me in, Ill... Ill get you the head of a human! You can say you killed it, or whatever! Dont throw me in! Its trash compacting day and you know it!" Kari felt himself being lowered. <br> "If I see you and you dont have it," James slashed his tail across Karis cheek. "Theyll be more where that came from," Kari sighed. Even though James could beat him up in a heartbeat, that demon could never resist a chance at fame, glory, and a chance to be in the spotlight. But now Kari had to kill a human. Kari sat up and started walking home, slinging his backpack over his sholder has he went. He would leave tomorrow morning and be back in a day with a head, d possibly a lifetime free from James bulling. <br> <p> <br> Please comment. I like it and it makes me happy. Au revoir.
Gasps and trears come into my eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Good start. Loved the dreams. Like how you jumped in like that without a huge intro.
Once again, Jeff Abbott has written a fast paced mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Furthermore, the price is very good.
Trust a father to do just about anything for his kid. In the case of Dennis Groote, a deranged ex-cop, he will stop at nothing to get hold of a new wonder drug which could lift the nightmarish depression imprisoning his daughter. Unfortunately, a whole lot of other characters also have their own reasons for wanting - or not wanting - to see the drug unleashed on the public. Which means that Groote has to play Dennis the menace to get his way - and he really knows how to dish out hurt. So it is that the story hurtles ahead like a missile locked unerringly on a target. The reader just has to hang on tight for the ride, which is played out in short, snappy chapters, with a terse cliffhanger at the end of each Will the hero, Miles Kendrick, manage to purge his own demons to adapt and stay one step ahead of Groote? Will Celeste Brent, winner of a reality contest, gather her wits for one more Survivor-like challenge to break free of her self-imposed mental shackles? While these characters are not fleshed out enough to gain the reader's sympathy or spark off revulsion, author Abbott knows how to keep the surprises coming thick and fast to compensate for that. The result is that though you think you should be reading something meatier and more thought-provoking, you cannot put this down. Abbott has also done his homework to pepper intriguing but disturbing nuggets of information about mental health to pose this tricky question: Are people really better off if they can totally erase horrible memories?