Thursday, September 13, 2012

ARC Review: Line of Fire by Stephen White

Line of Fire
Author: Stephen White
Publication: Dutton Adult (August 7, 2012)

Description: New York Times bestselling author Stephen White returns with a gripping thriller about the one devastating secret that could cost Alan Gregory everything—the first of the dramatic two-part conclusion to his acclaimed bestselling series.

Clinical psychologist and Boulder resident Alan Gregory is finally beginning to feel settled, hopeful that a long period of upheaval in his private life is behind him. He refocuses his energy on his clinical psychology practice, where a beguiling new patient is challenging his values. The interlude of calm doesn’t last, of course: Alan’s dear friend Diane is showing signs of a long-simmering emotional collapse, and Alan’s greatest fear—the exposure of his most dangerous secret—has become something he can’t ignore.

A new witness has surfaced, causing authorities to reopen their investigation into the suicide death of a woman named J. Winter Brown. When Alan and his equally culpable friend Sam Purdy inadvertently disclose details of their involvement in her death to a desperate drug dealer, any confidence they felt about riding out the new investigation evaporates. The trail that leads back to Alan and Sam, once cold, has turned white-hot.

With his vulnerability mounting daily, Alan begins to fear that his mesmerizing new patient may be the catalyst that can cause everything he treasures—his marriage, family, friendship, and future—to implode. As the authorities close in, the story hurtles toward a conclusion that will set the stage for the most unexpected of outcomes: the final act of the Alan Gregory saga.

My Thoughts: Coming into a series at the nineteenth book is not a good idea! This story was filled with allusions to earlier books in the series that would have evoked memories and emotions for fans of the series but I just found them vague and incomprehensible. The protagonist of this story is Dr. Alan Gregory who is a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado. He is married to an Assistant District Attorney. He is good friends with a Boulder police officer named Sam. 

Apparently, some time about three years in the past, Sam murdered an ex-girlfriend who was threatening his child and Alan's child and made it look like suicide. Alan knew about the murder after the fact but didn't tell anyone. Now, a new witness has come forward and it looks like their carefully constructed tissue of lies is about to be exposed.

Meanwhile, Alan's partner Diane is falling apart from a combination of traumas that occurred in earlier books, marital troubles with her venture capitalist husband, and hatred for her home outside of Boulder. All during the book, Boulder is under threat from various wildfires raging through the area. 

Alan also has a couple of new patients. One is the young man who was in a coma in the room where Sam and Alan discussed the new investigation of Sam's murder. The young man - that Sam and Alan call Coma Doe - intends to blackmail Alan into helping him find Sam in order to get some leverage for his own potential drug conviction. Alan's other new patient is a woman who is having a relationship with Diane's husband and who seems to be using Alan for her own purposes.

The story was complex and the different plot threads were entwined in many ways. I will have to say that I didn't like Alan or Sam very much at all. I couldn't understand their decision to force someone to commit suicide and then cover it up. I also thought that Alan was over-analytical. He never seemed to turn off his role as a psychotherapist. He also seemed to skate around his ethics fairly often. Sam was also an ambiguous character. 

Some of the vocabulary in the story also sent me to my online dictionary. I am assuming that the word choices were specific vocabulary to psychotherapy. I know there were two or three words that I had never heard of or had never encountered in anything else I had read. This almost never happens to me as a reader and slowed down the flow of the story for me.

This story may well work better for those who have read previous volumes and who have an emotional connection to the main characters. While I thought the story was interesting, I didn't make an emotional connection to it. This one is only recommended to those who have read other books in the series. I didn't find it a good entry point.

Favorite Quote:
I tried to clear my head, forcing myself not to perseverate on the mistakes I might have made on my visit to Frederick, or on any review of the mistakes I might have made in my initial, abbreviated meeting with Coma Doe.
I got this ARC from a publicist at Dutton in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here

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