The Bookworm: Shocks, thrills and squirms

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Clinic: A Thriller”

By David Jester

c. 2018, Skyhorse Publishing

$14.99, $22.99 Canada; 208 pages

So how are you feeling today? No pain, no hurts anywhere inside or out? No issues to mention, no bandages needed? Then you’re good to go, but as in the new book “The Clinic” by David Jester, just be careful where you end up.

It was supposed to be a sure thing. Eddie, Malcolm, and Darren had known one another since they were boys. They met in elementary school and were instant friends; at 16 and 17 years old, they were still close like brothers.  

“The Clinic: A Thriller” by David Jester

They did everything together – including theft. And Eddie had a sure thing.

After their last break-in gained them little more than pocket change, Eddie’s cousin told him about a rich-people’s hospital hidden away in the English countryside. It’d only be a matter of sneaking in, grabbing wallets and jewelry, and leaving quietly. As if Eddie, with his loud mouth and pampered home life, ever did anything quietly.

Malcolm had his doubts about the clinic but they weren’t getting anywhere by stealing from everyday homes, were they? No, and he needed all the money he could get: since his mother walked out one day and never returned, he knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be evicted from her apartment. Malcolm needed to get his own apartment, and apartments didn’t come cheap.

Darren wanted cash, too, so he could be sure he’d have something to eat. Once – and he’d forgotten when – his mother was loving and kind but then she got addicted to drugs and booze. When she moved her loser boyfriend in, she stopped cooking and being a mom; her next high was more important than her son.

And so, the three boys took a bus to the clinic, an imposing building in the middle of a cow field that made Darren feel uneasy from the moment he saw it. Malcolm, too, was unsure that this job was a good idea. True, there’d be a big haul, if they were successful.

It was supposed to be a sure thing. And it was surely not what they thought it would be …

From the first word of the first page, “The Clinic” is check-the-locks chilling – even though locks, as this book indicates, don’t matter.

Sadly, that chill begins to lose its shiver because the first 50 pages here are mostly f-bombs and a set-up that’s ice-cube-melting-in-January slow. Just about the time you’re ready to give it up, author David Jester puts his characters inside the psychiatric hospital. Cue the creepy music, it’s brrrr all over again, although with gore.

Lots of gore. Too much gore, and guts and more gore until age-16-and-up readers are almost desensitized to it all. And yet, you still have chills because the gore is overdone but the action is taut. Until you get to the ending, that is, which is every Hollywood hack-plot rolled into 20 pages. Sigh.

So should you read “The Clinic?” Yes, but know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s a horror-novel-thriller-gory-cliché that, for some readers, that may just feel wrong.

“As You Wish”

By Jude Deveraux

c. 2018, Mira

$26.99, $33.50 Canada; 416 pages

If you could, would you take it all back? Every misunderstanding, cross word, and cold shoulder, erased. Time wasted, retrieved. Hurtful situations never happened. Would you eliminate each of them or, as in the new novel “As You Wish” by Jude Deveraux, would you change the entire course of your life?

Olivia Montgomery had never met her two new charges.

For that matter, she hadn’t met the therapist who sent them, either. This wasn’t her idea. Olivia’s husband, Kit, was away on business and the doctor, who owned a cottage near the Montgomery ’s new home, needed someone to escort two of her patients there for a weekend retreat. Olivia wasn’t supposed to otherwise be involved but a chaperone had dropped out at the last minute; to her annoyance, Olivia had to step in and play den mother to two strangers.

“As You Wish” by Jude Deveraux

Ray was a nice guy and, as it happened, he was at the retreat to figure out if he wanted a divorce. His wife, Kathy, was clingy and he’d met someone else but he couldn’t bear to hurt Kathy’s feelings and he didn’t know what to do.

It was a different story for Elise. She arrived at the cottage with a tale of escape from a psychiatric hospital, having been institutionalized by her father and her husband, who’d almost killed her. She, too, wanted a divorce but circumstances prevented it.

Olivia was good at listening and she was willing to do that with these young people but she had her own problems, including angry memories of time wasted. Still, she almost had to get involved when Kathy showed up and Ray departed for a business meeting, leaving Kathy behind.

Suddenly, the reasoning behind this retreat felt different and Olivia began to share her deepest hurts, just as Elise and Kathy shared theirs. They all knew that the past was past but, when offered an extraordinary chance to set things right, they knew it was time to find their own, better futures ...

Initially, you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t wish to return to “As You Wish.”

Not to be prudish, but the beginning of this novel includes a lot of overfamiliarity: two of the female characters undress, for instance, and go streaking within hours of meeting one another. They then have an inappropriate conversation with a male character, who is also basically a stranger, about his sexual fantasies. This randy informality runs on and off throughout and while the girl-bonding parts fit into the story, the rest feels cringeworthy and gratuitously giggly.

Fortunately, these squirms don’t define author Jude Deveraux’s book. Once Olivia, Elise, and Kathy get over the über-lecherousness and into their narratives, readers are taken back and forth in time and there’s a delightful tale to be had, with a magical finish that’s wonderfully fantasy-inspired.

Charmed is what will happen by this books’ end, but there’s a lot of tee-hee-ing to endure first. Get past that, though, and stick around. “As You Wish” is a story for which you’ll take great pleasure.

More:The Bookworm: How far will you go?

More:The Bookworm: It’s all about perspective and doing things differently

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.