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Leaving the fast-paced life of Kirkwood Medical Center for what they hoped would be a quieter one to raise their family, Jay Barlow, his wife, Debbie, and their two young children settle in the small, bucolic community of Esbenshade.

But the ideal life they had envisioned together turns upside down when Jay, now a paramedic, begins aiding more and more patients suffering and dying from the same condition, with no logical cause or reason. He becomes determined to find an answer with the help of his partner, colleagues, and friends.

But as his search begins to challenge his marriage and his relationship with his partner, Sam, his resolve leads him to the discovery of a far darker and deadlier threat to his adopted community and his family than any of them had feared possible.

Inspired by a true story.

Review for Esbenshade

Esbenshade is a modern thriller that revolves around paramedic Jay, who faces a difficult truth when a patient in his twenties dies of a brain tumor. It is then that he learns this relatively rare incidence is only one in a community pummeled with unusual medical challenges. The emotional surge and investigation that follows draws Jay from his medical specialty into a world of subterfuge and secrets as he probes the cause of this onslaught of rare health challenges while maintaining his role as husband, father, and community member. As he becomes entangled in a deadly plot that holds personal ramifications, Jay finds his career and life threatened by a truth nobody wants to tackle, much less admit.

The Barnes' do a fine job of exploring the relationship between Jay, his female partner, and the stress that he experiences from his newfound position as a quasi-investigator:

"I'm sorry, Sam. I've been feeling a little stressed out lately."
"I'm not surprised. Things haven't exactly been sedate."
"I don't ever remember feeling so uptight. So bottled up and unsure of what's going on in my life." "You could talk to somebody, you know?" she said gingerly.
"I'm talking to somebody now."
"I mean a professional."
"You mean a head-shrinker."
"Oh, come on, Jay, you know better than that. The dumbest thing you can do is not get help when you need it."

Such dialogue brings his conundrums, skills, and new challenges and realizations to life as Jay struggles with roles he's unfamiliar with and doesn't feel certain about assuming. From mystery informants and deals to juxtaposing a typical paramedic's ambulance duty with issues of community safety and politics, Esbenshade creates an atmosphere in which its characters are provoked to rise to unusual occasions and conclusions as a medical mystery turns into a social threat. As the odds of resolution and survival narrow, Jay experiences personal and professional growth that readers will find particularly intriguing and inviting as the countdown towards a real disaster begins. The characters are personable, realistic, and memorable, as are the situations that compel them to act and react beyond their training. Readers who choose Esbenshade for its thriller components will find the action well cemented in realistic scenarios that contain elements of surprise, while those who look for medical thrillers well grounded in interpersonal and community relationships will find Esbenshade equally absorbing.

Libraries strong in medical thriller stories will find Esbenshade a fine addition.

Diane Donovan 
California Bookwatch

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