If you have read my reviews before, than it is no secret to you that I am a Gary Braver fan. Braver, along with Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston (writing as the Child/Preston team or solo), are, in my opinion, the heirs apparent to the Michael Crichton reign as best-of-the-best thriller writer(s). They never fail to provide exciting story lines, well-drawn characters, and captivating action. Where Preston and Child excel at archaeological-based thrill rides, Braver is a standout medical suspense writer. He takes controversial, of-the-minute topics, researches the heck out of them, and then asks the billion-dollar question: "What if?" The answer is a bold, edge-of-your-seat page-turner with the underlying message, "Be careful what you wish for."
Like Braver's earlier works, GRAY MATTER and ELIXIR, his latest fiction FLASHBACK focuses on a compelling issue in the forefront of medical news: this time, a cure for Alzheimer's disease. And, like his previous novels, it walks a thin (and thinning) line between fiction and fact.
In FLASHBACK, restaurant owner/planner Jack Koryan, raised by his aunt and uncle, makes a pilgrimage to the Massachusetts beach house he knows more from family stories than from actual memory to think about the parents he never really knew. A freak attack by a bloom of rare jellyfish leaves Jack comatose for three years. When he finally awakens, his previous life, including his marriage, is over, and startling new recollections from his youth begin to haunt him.
Meanwhile, Rene Ballard, a particularly meticulous pharmacologist, becomes involved in a series of trials for a new drug touted as achieving miraculous reversals in Alzheimer's patients. Seniors taking GemTech's test medication show remarkable lucidity, much to the delight of their families --- and GemTech.
As Rene's research proceeds, however, she discovers not only patients whose names aren't registered on the trials, but folks who are experiencing disturbing memory episodes…flashbacks to troubling times in their lives that the brain had defensively repressed for decades. Patients who have long forgotten childhood sexual abuse, incest and war now find themselves reliving the horrors in drug-induced fugues. The recollections become increasingly more frightening and ultimately manifest themselves in very real violence, to patients and others.
Rene's probing leads her to Jack, whose psychological symptoms resemble those of the elderly patients in the drug trials. As the company pushes for a speedy approval of a drug with obvious disastrous side effects, Rene and Jack become fatefully entwined in a decades-old murder mystery and a race to stop the use of the questionable medication. Along the way they unveil a dark, disturbing history that links Jack directly to the research.
Braver more than liberally sprinkles his timely tales with thorough research and a plausibility that makes one pause. In FLASHBACK, he delivers once again what we have come to rely on from him: hallmark intelligence, eerie believability, and fear.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 22, 2011