A good look at Douglas Sandler’s Bad Memories (2015) reveals
the writing requires a fair bit of editing. However, the story quickly
establishes John Miller as an intriguing protagonist. Miller operates a
“pill machine” — a gadget that stamps medical tablets one at a time. It
is from such a robotic, repetitive and exhausting work routine that
Miller steps into a mystery, an echo from his past working at an asylum.
Having left his dominating wife Julie at home, Miller intends to go
on a fishing trip with Albert Smith, the doctor with whom he used to
work at the asylum. However, once he discovers Albert is dead, memories
of his past come back to haunt him: “Once a man has killed, he may kill
again.” The memories prompt him to take action and investigate another
As often seen in this type of fiction, it is through the
protagonist’s attempt to uncover horrific secrets that his own secret is
gradually revealed. Also common is the protagonist’s inner conflict
between a desperate need to evade the prying eyes of others and a
burning desire to expose everything and find relief. But Sandler manages
his protagonist well – he keeps a firm grip on Miller, so much so that
the former physician remains tortured by bad memories throughout his
investigative journey. You cannot help but admire Miller, a reflective
soul, a keen eye to silent and prolonged suffering, a frequent visitor
to nightmares. Miller’s private thoughts make him one of the
many unforgettable literary characters this reviewer has encountered.
Almost like Ben Mears.
In the end, the mysteries have a fascinating twist. It is here that
you really want to know the answer, but Sandler keeps you dangling, in
the same way that Agatha Christie did and still does. In the usual
manner, characters keep dying and/or evolving until the truth is finally
revealed. As Miller desperately tries to sort out his confused mind,
you become seriously concerned about his sanity and safety, like you do
with Louis Creed.
The ending is satisfying, but here is a question for Sandler and
other authors to reflect upon. Do we really want the protagonist to find
the answer he wants? Do we want Miller to restore his faith in humanity
and himself, so that we as readers can feel good about life in general?
Or, do we want him to soldier on, using his medical knowledge to solve
more mysterious while struggling to tame his own shadow? This reviewer
would probably prefer a broken mirror pieced together by glue – you can
see a reflection again, but the cracks are always there.
Transparency: The author of this book has offered a free review copy,
but the coupon for Smashwords did not work. So this reviewer purchased a
BOOK REVIEW by Patricia Gavin for Amazon Book Review 1/3/16 “Bad Memories” by Douglas Sandler Copyright 1998/2015 American Creative Services, Panama City, Florida ISBN 9978-150786409 Cost: $2.99 Smashwords/Amazon ebook $9.50 Amazon/softback
TRAIN RIDE TO MILLERSBURG; TURN OFF THE TV AND TAKE A RIDE!
“Bad Memories” is a page-turner mystery and reminiscent of the “who dunnit” Hitchcock films that takes the reader from inside the mind of a laboratory technician who is the unhappily married John Miller. Miller has lost his medical license as the fall guy in a fraud scandal at an asylum where he met his wife Julie who has not lost hope in his innocence that allegedly he killed three patients with mis-prescribed medications purportedly improperly labeled. In the wake of his humiliation, John Miller manages to snag the ever-manipulative Julie after Dr. Younger, who set John up to take the fall for the death of three asylum patients. dumped her. Julie and John Miller’s marriage is a mistake, but the inevitable consequence of two people who meet at the low ebb of the tide in both their lives and cling together for survival after both leave their jobs at the asylum. The story begins and draws the reader in with an argument in the Miller’s Manhattan apartment on the upper East Side. The demise of the Miller’s marriage leads them to float upon a tide of affairs that eventually washes them both upon the shores of LaQuerencia, an estate north of New York City, in a small town on the Hudson called Millersburg.
BAD MEMORIES/2-2-2 LaQuerencia belongs to an empire builder named Paul J. Allen who has died. It is there in the chateau on the Hudson that the Miller’s marriage will become redefined and they will separate after an invitation from Dr. Alfred Smith, the county coroner in Millersburg. Smith, who supported John Miller through the end of his career at the asylum and loss of his medical license, has invited John for a weekend fishing trip (without his wife), despite the protests of Julie who does not want to be left alone in Manhattan for the weekend. John insists on his weekend getaway and ignores Julie’s pleas for company. En route to Millersburg from Grand Central Station, John meets the attractive Sally Daniels who is accompanying her father to attend the reading of Paul J. Allen’s will. Allen owned LaQuerencia and the company where Daniels’ father was once employed as a sea captain. However, when John Miller arrives via train from Grand Central Station in Millersburg, he finds his colleague Dr. Albert Smith, the county coroner, in an apparent suicide. John is challenged to discover the true cause of Smith’s death and his fishing trip turns into a ‘who dunnit” expedition to solve the murder of Dr. Alfred Smith and Paul J. Allen. The story involves a cast of characters who have also arrived with John Miller on the same train from Manhattan. Dr. Smith is quickly replaced by the previous coroner Doc Watson and Miller’s “sixth sense” detects an alliance between both the local District Attorney Benny Godfrey and the new coroner Watson. Both men are too anxious to pronounce Dr. Smith’s death a suicide. Miller is invited to delay his return to New York to attend the reading of the will of the wealthy zoologist and South American rubber magnate Paul J. Allen by Daniels who he meets on the train. Allen’s death has also been ruled suicide by gunshot, but Miller happens to discover blood stains under Allen’s desk and an empty slug logged in the binder of a book in his library at LaQurencia while a guest at the estate. Convinced both Smith and Allen were murdered, Miller remains at LaQuerencia to unravel the mystery of both their deaths. Miller meets the heirs apparent to the fortune of Paul Allen, owner of the massive estate, LaQuerencia, and is invited to spend the weekend with them as one of the members of the will is delayed due to car trouble. The heirs are a motley crew who were at one time disenfranchised in a South American rubber expedition Allen funded. In his final wishes, Allen’s heirs expect they have been called to Millersburg where Allen’s will hopefully will right past wrongs Allen and redeem Allen’s past deeds in the eyes of his disenfranchised employees. “Bad Memories” is a book that once you pick up I found it hard to put down. The book itself could have been edited and laid out more professionally as there were many formatting and grammatical errors. However, the character development of the protagonist John Miller and his own self-doubt and loathing make the reader want to turn the next page to find out how Miller regains his self-worth and resolves the mystery of his own medical demise and deciphers the murders of his colleague Dr. Alfred Smith and the rubber magnate Paul Allen.
BAD MEMORIES/3-3-3 Julie and Miller may go their separate ways in the end, but the book brings together an engaging cast of characters who each add their own personal drama to the storyline. It could easily be staged as a play. From the beginning one wonders if it was the proverbial “professor in the library with the candlestick” as the writer reveals each clue to the reader. From the conniving and greedy District Attorney Benny Godfrey, whose ambition aligns with the local law enforcement to dispense quickly with the cause of death as suicide, to the complacency of the newly installed Coroner Watson, the story brings together good and evil and allows good to triumph in the end as Miller regains his medical career and is vindicated in the process of solving the deaths of Paul J. Allen and Dr. Alfred Smith. Sandler, has overcome multiple disabilities to bring “Bad Memories” to the page and it is worth the read. The story is entertaining and fast-paced. Sandler is also author of “A Kiss Before Strangling”, “Guns of Vengeance”, “Poems form the Heart” and “Postal Strikes: A History 1890-2014”. A great read for a long winter afternoon. Turn the television off and take a train ride to Millersburg.