In Nemeth’s thriller, a son travels to Georgia to care for his ill mother and becomes disturbed by the dubious behavior of her doctors and his own siblings.
Randle Marks has been estranged from his family for years, but when his sister-in-law calls to say that his mom, Elaine, has had a heart attack, he leaves his Florida home for the Augusta, Georgia, hospital where she’s been admitted. The true reason for Randle’s estrangement was his late, stonehearted father, but his younger brother, Billy, still seems miffed when Randle returns home. Randle is initially shocked by Elaine’s symptoms; her loss of eyesight, for example, is a mystery to her doctors. He makes enemies among the medical staff when it’s clear he’s holding the hospital accountable for his mother’s condition. Meanwhile, his sister, Katie, says that she’s too busy at work to visit Elaine, and Randle realizes that some of his mom’s possessions have gone missing, including her car and most of the money in her checking account. He goes on to battle with Billy and the doctors, who both insist that Randle sign a do-not-resuscitate order. But he’s sure that something more sinister is at play, involving family secrets. Despite the story’s hospital setting and implications of malpractice, this isn’t merely a medical thriller, but also a family drama. Although Randle mistrusts the hospital employees, he’s equally wary of Billy, Katie, and occasional lawyers. The multifaceted protagonist comes with a lot of baggage; some of it is curious (he’s engaged to his ex-wife, Glenda, for example), and some of it is outright bizarre (he’s just out of prison, due to a gunfight involving his other ex-wife). The straightforward prose is remarkably effective, though, relating an engrossing story as Randle handles various characters and obstacles. A predictable twist comes halfway through the story, but it’s only a precursor to a genuine surprise near the end.
A precise, elaborate tale that shows just how menacing a family’s history can be.