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A Lethal Question


A Lethal Question

Following 2023’s DOWNFALL, Mark Rubinstein presents Dr. Bill Madrian, a Manhattan psychiatrist. His new patient wants to pay cash for sessions, which is a red flag given the city’s digital society.

At age 30, Alex Bronzi is single and resides in his parents’ home. His “issues” are that his mom expects him to take care of his laundry, and his “father’s a ball-buster,” though he works for the family business: a shipping company fronting for the Albanian mob. At the third psych session, Alex brings a check issued by the company. Perhaps to impress, he asks if the doc wants to know who assassinated Boris Levenko, a rival mob boss.

"A LETHAL QUESTION suggests Robert Redford’s character, Joe Turner, from the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor. Those who seek high-paced action will find it here."

Bill emphatically says no. But the check is a paper trail leading to him, which is payment for psychiatric sessions that the ball-buster dad will learn is where his braggart son may have spilled the family beans. Is the mob assassination linked to Alex’s family? Bill consults with a fellow physician and his brother-in-law attorney, Roger. Both advise him to go off the grid.

Their advice presents a quandary: How does one exist without using credit cards, electronic devices that can be traced, or accessing bank accounts? Bill can’t stay in his flat, rent a hotel room or book a flight to another city without Big Brother tracking each digital transaction that can be obtained by the mob. Roger puts Bill in touch with secretive Rami, who helps him hide in plain sight: “Bill suddenly realizes life as he’s known it, is over. How do you reinvent yourself, your childhood, your parents, your education, everything?”

Fortunately, Bill has a financial advisor acquaintance, Greg Jeffries, whom he’d only contacted when playing four-wall squash (or racquetball). Purchasing burner phones, Bill sends some to family members and calls his racquetball buddy. He learns that Greg and his wife are in the Caribbean for two weeks, and their posh townhome is available for him to use.

Feeling safe in the luxurious abode, Bill becomes overconfident and meets Elena Lauria, a librarian who rents the converted servants’ cottage attached to the house. It’s only a minor breach of Rami’s strict dictate not to be seen in public, as Bill walks down the front steps to Elena’s apartment. What could possibly go wrong?

A mobster shows up claiming to deliver flowers. He bursts inside and stabs Bill. Trained in self-defense techniques, Elena “lands a vicious punch to the back of the guy’s neck.” He crumples from the impact to his spine. Rami hasn’t contacted him. Is Rami feeding information to the mob?

Bill and Elena wing it and flee into the night: “This is off-the-charts weird.” They don’t know whom to trust and now must fend for themselves. They’re snared in a web of paranoia, suspicion and the threat of pending death.

A LETHAL QUESTION suggests Robert Redford’s character, Joe Turner, from the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor. Those who seek high-paced action will find it here.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on May 11, 2024

A Lethal Question
by Mark Rubinstein

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608095746
  • ISBN-13: 9781608095742