Review: Toxic Effects by Joel Shulkin, M.D.

☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

Neuropsychiatrist Cristina Silva cannot escape her past. The voice in her head of her former identity won’t let her. Cristina also can’t quite manage to force herself to forget the ex-boyfriend she dumped: handsome police detective Gary Wilson.

Soon after beginning her new job at the Longwood Memory Center, Cristina receives a startling phone call from her contact at the FBI: an assassin is crisscrossing the country, killing anyone connected to the now-defunct pharmaceutical company ReMind—people like Cristina. The shadowy criminal enterprise Zero Dark is back.

Indeed, an assassin is tracking Cristina, a literal femme fatale known as Dama Branca. Like Cristina, DB’s memory was robbed by Zero Dark. Transfixed by the brilliant doctor, DB’s unsure what’s preventing her from killing Cristina.

DB has memory glitches and longs to interpret them. Whether or not these have to do with Cristina, she doesn’t know, but she senses their fates are entwined—with any luck, not fatally.

Danger lurks in the shadows. Cristina’s spurned lover, Wilson, is investigating the suspicious deaths of local teens, convinced they’re not accidents. Before their bewildering ends, all the victims exhibit bizarre behavior, and there are now terrified whispers among their friends of a hooded boogeyman called Sack Man. One exceptional young man, Reggie Horne, is clearly in the middle of this bedlam. Wilson vows to prevent Sack Man from claiming Reggie as his next casualty.

And when Cristina’s in danger, Wilson is never far away. Just as it becomes apparent their two stories are entangled, the peril shoots sky-high. With at least one killer in their wake, they must quickly determine what’s real and what’s not. Unlocking Cristina’s memories could save many lives—her own included.



Guest Reviewer Tom’s Thoughts:

I have to admit, when I read the synopsis for this book, it turned me off.  There just seemed to be too much implausibility in the short summary to make me confident that there could be enough “hooks”to integrate the complexities and make this into a compelling page turner.  The tagline for the summary “Don’t forget to be afraid” had me thinking “don’t worry, I’m very afraid this story won’t work”.

Well, I was wrong.  By the end of chapter 3, author Shulkin had adequately set the stage for the element of fear, while roping us in with exquisite character development of the heroine and other main players.  I was quickly reeled in by the desire to find out what happens to these people which easily bought the author enough time to win me over on dealing with the complexities of memory loss, brain function, disassociative identity disorder and confabulation.

Shulkin also creates an avenue for humor as he develops the tension of ongoing sparring and internal banter between the competing personalities of Cristina Silva and Sabrina Carvalho contained in Cristina’s brain.  Added suspense is ably delivered as one tries to figure out which characters will eventually reveal themselves as “DB the assassin” and “Sack Man” while we await the somewhat predictable demise of the evil  Zero Dark Enterprise.  The multiple twists and turns and ultimate surprises in the reveal  make this a difficult book to set aside.  Added bonuses in the painful romantic evolution of Christina and Detective Wilson, and a feel good ending on multiple levels makes this a very pleasurable read.  I am now compelled to backtrack and read the first book in the series which I missed.

About the Author: Joel Shulkin, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and United States Air Force veteran with a master’s in public health. Having been lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary Michael Palmer, his short stories have appeared in various print and online journals, and he has won several national and local writing awards for fiction and poetry. He lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.

© Copyright 2022 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

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