Review: Incarnate by Josh Stolberg

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆


What it’s about:

An ambitious and sharp-witted clinical psychiatrist turns detective when one of her patients comes under investigation for a series of brutal murders—is she a psychopath or a victim herself?

Brilliant psychiatric resident Dr. Kim Patterson has one major flaw: she is too committed to her patients. Her willingness to break the rules and use unconventional methods to help her patients heal has already gotten her thrown out of several hospitals. And when Scarlett Hascall is brought into the psychiatric ward, Kim can’t resist getting involved, even if it means breaking protocol—because Kim can see what the other doctors cannot. Scarlett is suffering from a rare condition: Dissociative Identity Disorder, otherwise known as Multiple Personalities.

But even Kim is at a loss when she realizes that some of Scarlett’s alternate identities are claiming to be people who have gone missing from their town. And when Scarlett’s alter identity “Izzi” knows way too much about the whereabouts of the missing Isabel Wilcox, the police begin to suspect that Scarlett may have been involved with Isabel’s disappearance. Only Kim defends Scarlett, certain of the girl’s innocence. But her new theory is a radical one, one she can hardly believe herself: What if Kim is channeling the troubled souls of these victims?

With the help of local police officer Zack Trainor, Kim digs further into Isabel’s case, trying to find proof that Scarlett wasn’t involved. The more they discover, the more it becomes apparent that something strange and frightening is going on with Scarlett. Is it possible she is truly harboring lost souls? Or is Scarlett playing a twisted game with her doctors and the police?

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My Thoughts:

I was really looking forward to an intense psychological thriller in Incarnate by Josh Stolberg. I was not expecting the supernatural twist, and I can’t say that I completely appreciated this aspect of the story premise. However, the quality of the writing and the intense story tension kept me glued to this book.

There are multiple mysteries in Incarnate. There is the odd number of cold-case missing persons. There is the strange behavior of young Scarlett Hascall. There is the mystery in the main characters’ backstories. Both Dr. Kim Patterson and Detective Zack Trainor are complicated characters. Their flawed layers are peeled away like layers of an onion as the story progresses. Kim’s methods and her motives are questionable. Her wit, devotion to patients, and sense of humor won me over . Zack’s myopic adherence to the rules and the suggestions of his boss are not only frustrating for Kim but also dangerous. Although he stubbornly gives Kim no slack, he can cook a mean putanesca sauce. The characters are all richly developed, and if not always likable, they are quite empathetic.

Incarnate is definitely a page-turner. The story progresses at a quick pace. The story tension ramps up quickly, and remains intense. Some plot points are a bit gruesome and difficult to read. The story is set in Jarvis, Alaska–Kim’s desperate attempt at hiding from her problems in the middle of nowhere.  I would have appreciated more scene descriptions of a stark, harsh area.  Aside from telling me the characters were in a smallish town in Alaska, the story could have been set anywhere near a large body of water.  A few of the villains and red herrings were easily spotted well before their reveal. However, the multiple story lines created by the supernatural aspect keep everything interesting until the end. While the conflict culmination required a little suspension of disbelief, the ending was satisfying and organic.


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