The Forgetting Place by John Burley (Book Review)

forgetting place

In the tradition of Sybil and Shutter Island comes a psychological mystery that will leave you stunned and disbelieving. The Forgetting Place by John Burley is a study in the dynamics of pain, trauma, and grief and the effects they can have on the mental and emotional dynamics of the human psyche.

“…This is how it is for the majority-the lucky ones, whose illnesses have not claimed them completely-but it is not the case for the patients here. Too ill to be released into the public, or referred by the judicial system after being found either incompetent to stand trial or not responsible by reason of insanity, Menaker houses the intractably psychiatrically impaired. It is not a forgotten place, but it is a place for forgetting-the crimes committed by its patients settling into the dust like a gradual deterioration of the buildings themselves…”

Dr. Lise Shields joined the staff of Menaker State Hospital correctional facility five years ago. She understands that her patients are commited by Maryland’s court system and for many, there will be no salvation or healing. Shields understands that for many, this is their last refuge. But she begins to sense that perhaps Menaker is being used as something else entirely. A place to hide some patient. To silence them. To conceal them from the world.

When a new patient shows up, Jason, with no transfer paperwork at all and no admission paperwork, Shields begins to question why he is at Menaker at all. her questions are met with silence from the administration and soon she feels she is being followed. Who is Jason and what is his secret. His lover was killed, but by who and why? And why is the FBI involved?

Shields must unravel the secrets and lies surrounding Jason and Menaker before she becomes another one of its victims.

The Forgetting Place is thriller that starts slowly and builds and builds until the secrets surrounding its true plot unravels bit by bit and you have an entirely different novel than the one you began with. And that is a good thing. The secrets behind Jason and his incarceration are at the core of this mystery and there are plenty of red herrings afoot. Burley does a terrific job of creating an original and well paced plot here. Plenty of mystery. Plenty of action and plenty of guessing what is going on, with an ending as exciting as it is sad.

A terrific emotional thriller.

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