The Undiscovered Country
Published by: Morgan James Publishing
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award for Southern Fiction and the Yerby Award for Fiction (Augusta Literary Festival), this is a story about a murder no one knew had been committed tucked inside a Southern family drama about a mother's desperate struggle to conceal her explosive secrets.
Randle Marks buried his abusive father three years ago and thought he had escaped the gravitational pull of his dysfunctional family. Nonetheless, when he is summoned to his mother's hospital bedside in Augusta, Georgia, he expects to face long-suppressed memories and contemptuous siblings, but he does not expect to find a man claiming to be his birth father, conspiracies to embezzle money, and a murder no one knew had been committed.
To learn the truth about his past, Randle embarks on a journey through Old South traditions and the fading mores of his mother’s generation to untangle the layers of lies that enshroud his family’s history. As he uncovers the twisted facts, Randle battles the medical establishment, solves the murder and grapples with the riddle of his own identity. Only then can he choose between revenge and reconciliation.
Winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award for Southern Fiction.
"The Undiscovered Country ... has suspense, mystery, action and a very strong plot line. A really good read."
- Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite
"Countless twists and turns through surprise revelations keep you turning the pages right to the shocking conclusion."
- Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite
"Mike Nemeth is a terrific author and he has created a story that is really gripping. The Undiscovered Country was engrossing, utterly enjoyable and character-driven."
- Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
"A precise, elaborate tale that shows just how menacing a family's history can be."
- Kirkus Reviews
"I was impressed. This is a good mystery."
- Alex for Ink & Insight
"If I were to encounter this book in a library, where I picked it up on a whim, I would definitely keep reading after the first four pages."
- Cheyenne DeBorde for Ink & Insights
"The plotline thickens as the story progresses, pulling in the different layers of the characters and their situations--specifically that of family betrayal v. loyalty."
- Lauren Carson for Ink & Insights
"You have a strong story and a complex plot and you know how to write. Good job!"
- Zetta Brown for Ink & Insights
When William Tecumseh Marks marched through the door, Beth sensed his presence, pulled out of my embrace, and crossed her arms over her modest bosom. She did not go to her husband for comfort.
“What’s going on?” Billy said in a tone that implied he was worried more about his wife in my arms than he was about his mother’s status. Billy and I are opposites in every way. I’m an optimistic dreamer, while Billy is pugnacious and contemptuous. I have dark hair and brown eyes like our mother, while Billy has sandy hair—thinning—and steel-blue eyes like our father. I’m tall and lithe. Billy is short and square. I played college basketball. Billy was a power hitter in baseball and a running back in football. Unfortunately for Billy, he was one of those sad people for whom high school was the high point of a life that ran downhill after graduation.
“Mom’s undergoing tests—heart and brain—and won’t be back till late afternoon.”
Billy moved a few steps into the room. “I didn’t expect to find you here.”
I glanced at Beth and saw fear on her face. When she had called the previous night, she asked that I not disclose how I had learned of Mom’s hospitalization. I hadn’t seen Billy or Katie since my father’s funeral nearly three years ago, and neither of them had called me since my incarceration. “The hospital called me. I’m on the next-of-kin list.”
Billy looked doubtful; Beth looked relieved.
“Still wearing my father’s watch?” He pointed to the gold Rolex President on my wrist, my father’s retirement gift from the Savannah River Plant. He didn’t want to wear the symbol of his desultory career, so he presented it to me as we exited his ceremony. It was the only keepsake he had ever given me. My siblings had plundered his other possessions when he passed.
“Yes, it’s my father’s watch. The metal band wore out, so I changed to a leather strap.”
Billy sneered. “Never understood why he gave it to you. He thought you were an idiot.”
“The feeling was mutual.”
“Then why wear it?”
“To remind myself to prove him wrong.”
Billy shook his head and edged closer to us, creating a conversation circle. “What have the doctors told you?”
Ignoring Billy, I spoke directly to Beth. “What happened? I talked to Mom a week ago. She said she was fine.”
“She told us you called, but she wasn’t really fine, Randle. You know how she sugarcoats everything.”
I did know. Mom never wanted anyone to worry about her.
“Tell me about yesterday,” I said. “How did you find out? How did she get here?”
Beth flushed. Without asking Billy for permission, she said, “It started Thursday night. Mom had pain in her legs and couldn’t sleep. Could hardly walk.”
“The fluid buildup,” Billy said.
“The symptoms of a heart attack are different for women than for men,” I said. “It was about to happen, and she didn’t know it.”
Beth nodded. “Friday around lunchtime, she used the bathroom but then she couldn’t stand up. She was paralyzed. She had to crawl to the bedroom to get to a phone.”
“Took her four hours,” Billy added.
“She called me at home,” Beth continued. “Billy was at work, so I called 9-1-1 and met the first responders at her house. It was terrible, Randle. Her panties were still around her ankles. She was so embarrassed.”
I could imagine the scene: the prim Southern Belle in shocking disarray. It made me very sad to think this might be the messy end of my mother’s neat and proper life. “Could she see?”
“I guess so. She crawled to the phone, dialed my number.”
That implied she had the stroke while she was in the hospital, under a doctor’s care. That puzzled me. I paused to think about the ramifications.
“So they transported her, but then they didn’t do anything for her.”
“They gave her shots that saved her life, Randle. They put her on oxygen.”
True, but they didn’t assign a cardiologist and hospitalist until she proved she could survive the night.
“We were here all night,” Billy said.
I knew that wasn’t precisely true, but I didn’t challenge him. “Is she still paralyzed? They never mentioned it to me.”
“No,” Beth said. “She regained movement after they treated her in the emergency room.”
That’s a relief. Now that I had the background, I recapped for Billy and Beth what Metzger and Kaplan had told me. They were shocked to hear that Mom couldn’t see. I had more pressing matters to pursue.
“Why is she malnourished?”
Billy constructed an innocent expression. “She’s not. She gained weight, ballooned to a hundred sixty pounds at one point.”
“She’s a skeleton now. Do you guys check on her?”
Billy’s nostrils flared like a wounded bull in a fighting ring. “We live in Martinez, not around the corner. Why didn’t you check on her?”
“I’ve been occupied.”
“With that hocus pocus you call science? How’s that worked out for you?”
“You know where I’ve been.”
“Yeah, making license plates.” He snorted in derision.
I had to change the subject before I strangled my baby brother. “When was the last time she’s been to the doctor?”
Billy shrugged. “Not long ago.”
“Was she being treated for water retention?”
“Sure, she has pills.”
“What about the infection on her legs?”
“She takes steroids. We took care of her while you were ‘occupied.’”
“I’m here now. I’ll look after her.”
Billy shook his head. “Too late, Jack. You can go back to your ex-wives and your boats and your houses—all the things that have been more important to you than family.”