September 22, 2023
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Book Reviews Fiction Thriller

House of Giral – Past lives catch up to the future

Author: Mark Latowsky

Genre: Thriller

Year Published: 2023

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Worth to read”

Jo Hart, a Jungian Psychologist by profession, becomes an unwilling participant in a psychedelic drug program upon awakening from a very public psychotic episode.. Unable to leave due to a controversial law keeping her in place, She is held against her will inside of a mental health facility. Her freedom lies at the discretion of a questionable psychiatrist, Dr. Young, whose presence induces a vague sense of familiarity coupled with intense feelings of unease Jo can’t quite seem to find the origin of.

Fragments of a past life rife with abuse and mistreatment emerge as Jo, supported by a group of friends, works to reconcile her present and her past life tied to the horrors that took place in the House of Giral a century prior. This medical thriller rich with parapsychological elements explores one woman’s search for healing. Along the path, karmic retribution catches up to those who have evaded the consequences of their damaging actions for a century.

Spoiler-free Plot

While out on an evening run, Jo Hart is triggered by a piece of jazz music from the 1920s. We are given a snippet of an alternative scene, one that takes place in a distant past. She is sent into a state of extreme agitation once the short memory ends. Lacking awareness of her surroundings and her own identity.

Jo is unable to distinguish between delusions and reality. She is seized by a powerful sense of paranoia and is fully convinced that someone is chasing her, trying to find her, trying to hurt her. A bystander witnessed the meltdown occurring before her calls for assistance. Mentions of a mental health facility precede an injection to the neck. A loss of consciousness follows.

The psychiatrist assigned to treat Jo, Dr. Albert Andrew Young, is surrounded by an ominous aura from the moment his character is introduced. Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to any of the other characters, there is a barely contained anger simmering beneath the surface of Dr. Young’s prim and professional demeanor. His intentions are suspect, so much so that the patients under his care hold a deep sense of mistrust for the doctor who is supposed to treat their mental ailments through the administration of psychedelic drugs. He plays the role of a small god within the walls of the facility. Only he determines what medications his patients receive when they can leave, and when they have to stay.

West of Fort Lauderdale, detectives investigate the murder of a woman whose body was dumped amongst the weeds in the yard of a decaying plantation estate. The mansion and the land it exists on once belonged to Pablo Giral—the patriarch of a Cuban-American family with a horrific history that culminated in a gruesome crime. Because of the staging of the body, the identity of the murdered woman, and the location of the crime, all lead point to a recurrence of what took place a century ago. It is up to Evan Fuentes to find the significance of the deceased woman’s attachment to the Giral family while solving the mystery of her murder.

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My Take on House of Giral

Mark Latowsky adheres to the contract each author within the thriller/mystery genre draws between them and their readers. At the end of each chapter, there are threads left dangling in the body of work read so far. Each thread is deliberately left hanging and tucked away neatly once the story is complete. An example would be the repeated mentions of the symbolic “137”. From the number of the room, Jo finds herself in within the psych ward, to the address of the dilapidated Giral manor, the number of a storage unit, and an amount of money owed.

The closer we get to the crescendo of the story, the confrontation between the forces of good—the former victims of Pablo Giral—and evil—Pablo Giral as Dr. Young—there is an increase in the frequency of this number appearing. When an explanation is given to explain the significance of the number, it is entwined with death. From this point on, it serves as a guide to the underworld so to speak, leading Pablo Giral as Dr Young to his inevitable demise.

We also uncover all the players in the story. The past identities of characters are revealed one by one in a way that feels natural in the progression of the plot. The author leaves us with a truly satisfying ending to a mystery that remains gripping throughout.

The only suggestion I would give the author would be to simplify some of the medical jargon used in the story by translating the abbreviations, medical terms, and procedures into layman’s terms for those not well-versed in doctor-speak. As a reader, having to stop and look up something once isn’t much of a bother, however, interrupting the flow of your reading multiple times within the same page or paragraph detracts attention from the brilliant story laid out in the pages before me.

I would implore the author to make a few edits well within his capabilities as a knowledgeable medical practitioner to cater to the exploratory readers who might be dipping their toes into the vast and exciting pool of medical thrillers for the first time and are finding it hard to decipher the meaning behind valuable additions to the story that increase awareness of a character’s physical and mental state.

Content Warning

Use of psychedelic drugs, Violence, Sexual Violence, Foul Language, and Mentions of alternative religious practices (Santeria and tarot reading).

Age Rating

Suitable for teenagers 16+

About The Author Of House of Giral

University of Toronto Medical Graduate Dr. Mark Laurence Latowsky has worked doing Family, Emergency and Addiction Medicine in the greater Toronto area for the last thirty years. His patient-centered care vision included research and teaching, collaborative development of addiction practice and quality assurance guidelines, through expert committee work at the Center for Addiction
and Mental Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
In signed depositions made to Alan Young Dr. Latowsky provided court assistance affecting the implementation of Medical Marijuana Access Regulations the first government approved medical licensing program for marijuana of its kind in Canada. Dr. Latowsky has since 2019 been retired, spending his winter months in the Ft. Lauderdale
area with his family.

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