4 out of 4 stars
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The Freedom Building by Martin Kendall is a psychological thriller about John Gowan, an architect with a tidy, if unfulfilling, life and a reasonably prosperous business. When a terrorist's bomb levels the Zenith Building in a nearby town, John's life changes when he decides to design the replacement building. Minutes after making this decision, he has an accident on the highway. He wakes up in the ER with a concussion and amnesia, and he finds out that three and a half years have passed. During this time, apparently he was the architect chosen to replace the Zenith Building. The builders are breaking ground for his new building that day, and he is a local celebrity.
This tense, thought-provoking thriller centers on John's attempts to keep his amnesia a secret from everyone, which is challenging since he is supposed to be supervising the construction of his masterpiece, the Freedom Building. Gradually, his clients and business associates begin to suspect that something is wrong with him, and some are looking to exploit that information for their own gain. Even as his colleagues and clients are noticing something is wrong, John is making small strides toward understanding his own problems. None of his understanding, which comes in fragments and is handled subtly, comes in time to save him any embarrassment, and nothing changes his firm desire to hide all evidence of his amnesia from everyone, at an ever-increasing personal cost.
My favorite part of the novel was the in-person conversation between John and his estranged wife. She seems to be the only person he feels safe explaining his situation to with any candor. In a few brief sentences, she puts his problem into the perspective of their marriage and also puts him back in contact with the memory of his younger self. She seems to be the most understanding person in the entire story, or, at least, she is the person who is the most capable of understanding John. Certainly, John, as we see him in middle age, is not a very likable man. He seems to be unable to build any emotional connection with people, even those close to him.
The part I disliked the most was the realization that John's decision to keep his amnesia secret left him unable to defend himself from multiple attacks. He was alone and adrift. In my opinion, he was more vulnerable than he would have been had he sought help early on and dealt with his amnesia more directly. His only attempt to explain himself just left him open to a real nightmare of criticism and manipulation from all sorts of opportunists. Even though he is not a warm and fuzzy character, I was attached to him by then. He had become sort of a tragic hero at some point.
I give this novel 4 out of 4 stars. It appears to be extremely well-edited, since I saw no typos. It contains no profanity, but there are a couple of adult situations. it really is a great psychological thriller from an author who knows how to hold the reader's attention. The building tension(heh) held my attention up to the ending.
The Freedom Building
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