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Book Review: Joshua and the Shadow of Death (Berserker Series, Book 1) by Gary McPherson

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Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC copy of this book by JKS Communications on behalf of the author, for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Crime Thriller/Suspense/Mystery

Plot: “I never thought my life would turn out like this. My best friend Richard Brown is dead. Parts of his brain still paint the wall where he shot himself. Eighteen years ago, he and Barbara entrusted me with curing their adopted son, Harold. I was so sure of myself. After all, I had cured his half-brother at the orphanage. I thought I knew what I was doing, but now I’m not sure of anything.

Richard left me a note telling me to help Harold find the men responsible. Richard claims if we fail to solve his suicide that his company and everyone working there will be lost. What does that mean, and does it matter? How can I help? I am a psychiatrist, not a detective. If I fail, what will become of Barbara? Will Harold’s grief unleash the beast living inside him? The berserker is controlled, but he is not contained.”

Join childhood development psychiatrist Doctor Joshua Zeev as he attempts to find the answers to his best friend’s death and help the family through their grief. Can Joshua survive his insufficiencies? Does Maria’s patient love give him the focus that he needs to discover the truth, or will she be a distraction? Does his challenge of a lifetime, bring answers and closure, or even more perilous dangers?

Opinion:

A suspenseful thriller JUST in time for the holiday season!

Put on those trench coats and grab those magnifying glasses boys and girls, there’s a conspiracy afoot!

Joshua has spent many diligent years working with countless young boys at an orphanage in North Carolina. Two of his most memorable cases were that of two half brothers who were both left at an orphanage by their mother. Both boys were diagnosed by Joshua with “Berserker Syndrome”, a condition that makes the person fly into a blind rage so bizarre that it can be described as being possessed. After curing the youngest of the brothers, Bill, Joshua is enlisted by the adoptive parents of the oldest boy, Harold, in hopes that he may also be cured. Years later in California, Harold is a grown man and Joshua is still living with the family and working with Harold on his blind rage. But when the sudden suicide of Harold’s father Richard Brown occurs, Joshua’s concern for the young man is at an all time high. As he tries to find the reason for his friend’s sudden death, while also keeping Harold under control, Joshua finds himself with more questions than answers.

This story has just about everything I could ask for in a suspense thriller; a man with a dangerous blind rage, blackmail, countless deaths, and even a little bit of romance. Did somebody say swoon?! Though I was expecting a story that focused on the slightly disturbed inner workings of a young man who starts beating people to a pulp out of nowhere; I was instead welcomed with a mystery on the suicide of a man who ran a very profitable weapons company. Though I am not upset about this change of events, I must say that I feel slightly derailed from what I was expecting of this story.

I was hoping to have a better understanding of this “berserker syndrome”, which the reader is introduced to right away at the beginning of the story. The reader is taken through a part of Harold’s life as a young boy when Joshua is first treating him for his condition, and the author paints a nice picture of how little Harold can control his rages. But we are fast-forwarded years later to when Harold is a grown man, and the story turns into more of a “who-done-it” rather than focusing on Harold and his condition. It feels like this initial idea for the book to be based more on the psychiatric and mental side of the experiences of this family was thrown by the waste side a little. I wish it would have had bigger role in the overall telling of this story, instead of just going right into being a search to find out the reason for Richard brown’s suicide. I felt like I didn’t get an in-depth look into Harold as much as I would have liked, which in turn made it harder for me to connect with his character.

Our other main character in this story is Joshua, a psychiatrist who specializes in child development and who had coined “berserker syndrome”. I found that Joshua’s character could have also been given a little more depth and attention. Many times, I found myself slightly irritated with the comments he would make about suicide or other observations. He didn’t come across as the intelligent and worldly man that I think the author was trying to mold him to be. Instead, I found him to be a little dim and overly simplistic in the way he thought and spoke. There were a few examples of Joshua and other characters emotions being TOLD to the reader, rather than SHOWN. A book can tell me someone is sad, but I won’t believe it until I see the evidence backed by the actions of the character.

Characters aside, the overall story has an interesting and thoughtful plot. The Brown family runs a very successful weapons company. Now, I think this may be something to do with nuclear weapons, but I am not very clear on that. Anyways. One day Richard Brown shoots himself in the head in his office in front of Harold (super casual), which commences the true question of the story: WHY?! This takes the reader on a hunt to find the cause of Richard’s suicide, which eventually leads to a bigger scandal. Now I don’t want to give anything away, but BE WARNED that this book will reference some not so pleasant things. Nothing graphic, so don’t worry. I found the journey to the truth in this tale to be likable, but at times a bit too wordy. There was a lot of dialogue that wasn’t completely necessary, but I think was used to give the reader a deeper connection to the characters. Unfortunately, it didn’t for me and I just ended up skimming through those parts.

I think Joshua and the Shadow of Death was an entertaining and different read but didn’t quite hit the mark for me in terms of a deep connection and concern for the characters. I think the plot definitely makes it a great book that had me yearning for what really happened, and I found that I rather enjoyed that aspect of the book. I think the writing and character development can use a little work, but it is still very easy to read and enjoy.

3-stars

 

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