Review By Gabrielle

Prepare yourself for a book hangover because you won’t be able to put down this addictive mystery.

Favourite Quote:

But despite the bleak architecture, I found the town’s shoreline spectacular. I especially loved strolling the beach in late spring when endless ice flows still filled the expansive sea, forming, to my eye, the epitome of desolate Arctic beauty.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

A psychiatrist’s patients are dying—are they suicides related to a new antidepressant, or is there something even more sinister going on in the northernmost town in the US? A riveting new thriller from internationally bestselling author Daniel Kalla.

After Brianna O’Brien takes her own life, Dr. David Spears blames himself. Though he understands suicides can be a tragic occurrence in psychiatric practice, this loss hits him particularly hard. With Brianna, he’s convinced he missed crucial warning signs. When David suspects Brianna’s friend, Amka Obed—whom he’s also been treating virtually—is in crisis, he flies to the remote Arctic community of Utqiagvik, Alaska, only to discover that she has disappeared.

While the regional police are confident that Amka will turn up safe, David and the town’s social worker, Taylor Holmes, have serious doubts. Each battling their own demons, David and Taylor launch an investigation, determined to help uncover the truth about what happened to Amka. David wonders if a new antidepressant he recently prescribed both Amka and Brianna played a role in what took place. Taylor, who’s familiar with the locals, suspects a drug lord with connections to Amka’s boyfriend.

Who is right? Where is Amka? Is she still alive?

What begins as a missing persons inquiry and suspicion over a pharmaceutical cover-up quickly evolves into a terrifying journey of treachery and death—one that will horrify this isolated town and endanger many more lives.

I’m ashamed to admit this is my first Daniel Kalla novel though he has long been on my radar. Doctor by day and writer the rest of the time, Kalla is known for his medical thrillers. I’m really glad I finally picked up one of his books because it was a good one.

Kalla does a great job of incorporating the bleak but beautiful Alaskan landscape into the novel to the point where the setting almost feels like another character. The book starts out in Anchorage and then transitions to the very remote town of Utqiagvik. It’s that very remoteness that contributes to the almost claustrophobic sensation the reader has and it creates a glorious tension. At the same time, Kalla highlights the challenges faced by remote communities and some of the ways health care professionals and law enforcement work to overcome them.

The characters are very well developed and I felt like I really got to know both main characters. The book begins from David’s point of view, a psychiatrist working with patients both in Anchorage and in Utqiagvik. He is a very caring person who goes to great lengths to help his patients. Part way through the book we switch to Taylor’s perspective and I also loved her character. As the social worker in a very remote town, she makes a big difference in the lives of all the townspeople.

I liked that Kalla chose the topic of mental health for this book. After two long years of the pandemic, more of us than ever are facing barriers to our mental health so the timing for this book couldn’t be better. I felt Kalla provided a well-balanced look at the numerous challenges faced by both those struggling with their mental health and those that treat them. I particularly liked that he chose to have David struggle with depression. Not only did we get more detail on how depression looked to him because he is a main character, it showed that no one is immune and even a psychiatrist can face mental health issues.

Overall a suspenseful great read. I highly recommend it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about that book hangover.

Thanks, Simon and Schuster Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.