The Night Bird
by Brian Freeman
Cover Artist: Design by Rex Bonomelli
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Thomas & Mercer Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781503943568
Date: 01 February 2017 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Frost Easton of the San Francisco Police Department is investigating the mysterious deaths of several women. All of them experienced unexplained psychotic outbursts in which they violently killed themselves. All of them were patients of a controversial psychiatrist, Dr. Francesca "Frankie" Stein; she cures her patients of their phobias by erasing the memories that produced them. Now, a deranged, vindictive madman, who calls himself the Night Bird, is stalking Frankie, threatening to kill her and her patients. Frost develops romantic feelings toward one patient, Lucy Hagen. He must uncover the Night Bird's identity before Lucy becomes the next victim.
Brian Freeman is the best-selling author of numerous psychological suspense novels (The Bone House). The Night Bird is the superb debut in his new mystery series that is strongly steeped in elements of horror.
The novel commences with a young woman, Brynn Lansing, who is stranded with her best friend, Lucy Hagen, on the congested Oakland Bay Bridge. Suddenly, without warning, Brynn becomes hysterical as though someone or something, invisible is attacking her; she staggers out of her car, climbs the railing, and leaps to her death. Detective Frost Easton discovers a pattern that leads him to the highly successful, extremely controversial, very beautiful Dr. Frankie Stein. Yes, she has been given the cruel nickname of Dr. Frankenstein.
This novel could be more aptly titled Bad Memories. Every character seems to have them. Our likable hero, Frost, is haunted by the memory of discovering the corpse of his murdered sister Katie. Frankie is oppressed by the memory of seeing her abusive father lying dead at the bottom of a cliff. All of her patients suffer phobias that were triggered by bad memories. For example, Brynn feared cats because she was horribly scratched by one. Frankie simply erased the memory of that unfortunate incident. Is it ethical to erase memories? I liked how she compared bad memories to cancerous tumors that needed to be excised in order to commence the healing process.
Frankie explains how our memories and perceptions are easily altered by what people tell us. Eye witnesses are often very unreliable. For example, a policeman may ask a bystander, "Wasn't it a black man driving that red car?" In his/her mind, the eyewitness visualizes this policeman's description and begins to actually believe it even though in reality it was a white man driving a blue car. Furthermore, we are often defined by our memories; unfortunately, over time, our memories begin to change. We don't always recall incidents exactly the way they occurred. Memories can be easily altered or removed in their entirety through hypnosis. Keep in mind that if bad memories can be removed, then they can also be implanted.
Hypnosis and subliminal perception have always been popular topics of science fiction and horror. Hypnosis is a weapon of revenge used in Nick Sharman's 1980 horror novel, The Scourge. Its bizarre, ultra-violent plot is very similar to that of The Night Bird. Linked by a horrible accident that they witnessed, men and women across England are going insane and experiencing horrifying deaths. Subliminal perception (its affects are magnified by drugs leaked into the drinking water) is used by a power-hungry madman to control the citizens of Black River, Maine, in Dean Koontz's gritty, disturbing best-seller, Night Chills. In all these novels, a person loses control of their mind when they hear aloud a secret name, a date, or lines from a song.
Who is the Night Bird? Their identity remains a mystery until nearly the novel's end. I was shocked. I had pinned the murders on someone else. The Night Bird is full of surprises. The body count is high and there are numerous plots and subplots. There are two serial killers working independently; both are extremely evil. Practically every character is guilty of something. There are no happy endings. However, some experience closure while others suffer broken hearts that will never be repaired.
The Night Bird is a very unique mystery that combines high-tech horror with police procedure. I hope Frost Easton's next case is as creepy, terrifying, and provocative.