What is this about?: Adam Knox, the doctor at a clinic in LA, treats a boy one afternoon for an allergic reaction to peanuts, and finds himself embroiled in what amounts to a brutal custody battle outside of the courts. He decides to help the boy, Alex, and his mother Elena, but doesn’t realise the absolute crap he’s about to find himself embroiled in.
What else is this about?: What makes a hero? What makes a man drop everything to help a boy and his mother, people he doesn’t know at the expense of those he knows and cares about in his life? This is also the story of who Adam Knox is.
Blurb: From the author of Red Cat and Thick as Thieves: a gripping new thriller about a doctor with a potent humanitarian impulse, an unhealthy appetite for risk, and a knack for finding himself between a rock and a hard place.
When Dr. Adam Knox served with an NGO in Central African Republic, his attempt to protect patients from a brutal militia ended in disaster and disgrace. Now he runs a clinic near Los Angeles’s Skid Row, making ends meet by making house calls–for cash and no questions asked–on those too famous or too criminal to seek other medical care. When a young boy is abandoned at his clinic, Knox is determined to find his family and save him from the not-so-tender mercies of the child welfare bureaucracy. Knox’s search for the volatile woman who may or may not be the boy’s mother leads him and his friend–former Special Forces operator Ben Sutter–into a labyrinth of human traffickers, Russian mobsters, and corporate security thugs, and to a powerful, secretive, and utterly ruthless family that threatens to destroy Dr. Knox and all that he holds dear.
Dr Adam Knox isn’t a hero, that much he makes clear. He may be an adrenaline junkie hiding in the guise of an emergency department doctor at a local clinic, but there’s something to him that he himself hasn’t acknowledged when Dr Knox begins. When Elena and Alex rush into the clinic asking for his help the story quickly becomes about him as much as Elena and Alex trying to escape the havoc in their lives.
Said havoc is Kyle Bray, a drunk and a drug addict, who wants his son, Alex, in the Bray family fold. When you think Bray, think money, legacies and almost maniacal desire to have a perfect bloodline AKA a perfect son. That’s what Harris Bray, Kyle’s father, is after when he focus all his energies and Kyle’s on getting Alex from Elena. This involves kidnapping him from Elena overseas, until Elena finds them a year later in the US and takes her son back.
Which is where this book begins: When Alex experiences an allergic reaction to peanuts, Elena rushes him to Knox’s clinic, but leaves him there when she discovers people are still after them. And Knox can’t bring himself to turn Alex over to the police. This is when the book starts to peel back his layers, to the time he spent with a medical organisation overseas and his experiences in war-ravaged countries. These are the hints that make it easier to understand Knox, like why he is so emotionally remote at times.
When Knox goes searching for Elena, he discovers the truth of Alex’s and her connection to the Brays and he resolves to help them. That involves dragging everyone he knows into a fight with a very influential, ruthless family without asking them. Sutter, his BFF in a way, is a mercenary and points this out a couple of times in the book – that this is all his doing, but the consequences are everyone’s to bear. Knox doesn’t waver though – he wants to help Elena and Alex, but I couldn’t help but wonder at his ability to ignore the danger he was putting his own friends in and yet he persisted. Is that what heroes are made of? They sacrifice their own, without letting them know of the danger, in an effort to help someone? Or does Dr Knox crave danger that the mundane life of a clinic doctor can’t give him? Sutter makes these points several times over and it poses some interesting questions about the character of Dr Knox.
The plot may be straightforward in a way, the Spiegelman throws in some delicious twists and turns, and characters like Nora, Mandy Bray, Sutter and Lydia who all orbit Knox. They are well-developed, compelling characters and they force Knox into facing some harsh truths he’s not ready for. Will he be ready in book two? Don’t know. But I’d definitely pick it up if it ever does happen.