Title: Unethical: A Psychological Thriller
Author: Marla L Anderson
Publisher: Wolfheart Press
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
I have always been intrigued by stories about aging and Alzheimer's Disease. That is why, I looked forward to reading what this story had to offer.
In the Prologue, we meet Dr Adrian Kessler, who runs the Kessler Institute for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Erring against ethics, Dr Kessler harvests the brain cells of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, who had shown a brief period of recovery while under his care. The procedure is illegal, but Dr Kessler is driven in his obsession to find a cure. So far only a few mice in his laboratory have survived for more than a few months.
Josephine Rinaldi is a young lawyer, whose father suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. Unable to cope with the demands that the disease makes on them, Josephine struggles to care for him while fulfilling the demands of her job. It doesn’t help that during his brief lucid spells, he is extremely critical and abrasive towards the very daughter who cares for him. As the sole surviving family member (her mother has died of cancer and her older brother died as a result of drowning), Jo has no one to appeal to for help.
Her boss, Matthew Dawson, who legally represents Dr Kessler, offers her father’s admission into Dr Kessler’s Institute. But then her dad complains to her that he is not happy there and that people keep disappearing all the time.
PI Scott Benson finds out that there is foul play afoot at the institute. At least three patients have died, after showing marked improvement. Jo’s own attempts to find out more cause her to lose her job, and increasingly put both her and her father at risk.
At first Dr Kessler’s desire to find a cure seems well intentioned, even if his methods are all wrong. He genuinely wants to help people have a better quality of life. He says, Such was the nature of a disease that attacked the essence of personality. He wonders, What are we but memory and knowledge amassed over time. If all that vanishes, what’s left? But the road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, and Dr Kessler ignores all ethics in his drive to get what he wants.
The author intersperses the fictional narrative with information about this deadly disease. Her research on both the medical and the legal aspects feels convincing and intuitive to the story. The scientific bits were toned down to appeal to a lay reader.
The book is fast paced; there were parts I read with seemingly my heart in my mouth.
Scott is a swashbuckling character, with his own interesting back story that becomes involved in the main one. He was a secretive person, and there was trouble in his past that came out in believable bits. But there were some errors regarding his name. From being Scott Benson in the earlier chapters, he suddenly changes to Scott Bennett later on in the book.
Another error was in Chapter 32, where Dr Kessler tells Jo, The more time that passes, the higher the likelihood that he will digress. Shouldn’t that be regress?
I had an issue with the main character. There were many times when Jo appeared naïve at best, and stupid at worst. Also, the name, Maggie, changed to Margaret within the same dialogue scene. I hope the author rectifies these errors.
The story gives us an idea of the challenges faced by the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. We feel a sense of sympathy for caregivers who receive no appreciation from those they care for.
The book also creates a frightening scenario in which medical experts put all morals and ethics aside in the hope of playing God, pitting it against the all-too familiar scenario of a small minnow taking on an adversary many sizes too big.
The book ended in a completely unexpected way, and there was at least one element that I found confusing and can't ask about without creating a spoiler.