Medical ethics make for engrossing thrillers; we can’t help but judge the decisions of others based on what we would do. Mind Diversion begins with this intriguing premise, but author James Green quickly runs into difficulties from which it’s hard to recover.
The story opens with Charlie Fieldstone literally on fire. He’s picked up by police for the murder of his doctor’s wife, but insists he was acting on doctor’s orders: Charlie claims his doctor planted a chip in his brain (under the guise of cancer surgery) and is commanding him electronically. He set fire to his own head, possibly to destroy the evidence. The remainder of the story follows Charlie on his quest for justice.
In the right hands, this idea could make for a rollicking story, but the writing here is not up to task. Misspellings and grammatical errors are distracting, but the larger problem is Green’s impulse to over-explain things and to focus on unimportant details in a way that seems unnatural and ultimately sabotages the story’s credibility.
For example, when police apprehend Charlie, they shout for him to put his hands up. When he fails to comply, they implausibly talk amongst themselves at length about what to do next. An EMT riding in an ambulance tells a hospital worker they’re almost there because, “I can recognize some of the stores that’re [sic] near our hospital.” And an email Charlie hacks into while in prison includes this line: “I’m…often delivering packages of computer chips (I can tell they’re computer chips by simply looking at the return addresses on the packages).” Green doesn’t trust us to figure things out, which quickly drains the fun out of reading his story.
Mind Diversion originates from a great conceit, but to engage readers it will require significant revision.
Also available as an ebook.