Book Review: Punishment

PUNISHMENT (Detective Barnes #1) | Scott J. Holliday
02.01.2018 | Thomas & Mercer
Rating: 4/5 stars


Detroit-based homicide detective John Barnes plays a unique and often painful role in investigating the local murder cases. Technological advances have led to the creation of a machine that can access the memories of the living, the dying, and the recently deceased. Once these memories are extracted, they can be fed to another human being in a manner which allows that person to fully relive those final moments. They experience everything – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the pain. Typically this transfer of memories is reserved for the criminal who caused the pain to be a part of their punishment. Detective Barnes, however, also has these memories transferred to him, so that he can gain clues from these final moments.

Murder and death were resistant to desensitization, which explained why the evening news always led with blood. Tell us the globe is boiling or the ozone is Swiss cheese, we’ll yawn and flip to The Big Bang Theory. But tell us someone ax-murdered our neighbor, and we’ll press “pause” to toss a bag of popcorn in the microwave.

The type of pain inflicted through victim’s memories can be unbearable for anyone, after all that’s why they’re used as a form of punishment. Barnes is starting to feel the impact of experiencing so many memories. He is haunted by the victims of his cases. He wants to end this torture. Barnes is unable to call it a quits as a serial killer he has been hunting for some time continues to strike. Will Barnes be able to find the man he calls Calavera before the killer or the memories cause him is life?

At any moment in America, there were dozens of murderers, rapists, and domestic abusers having their crimes pumped into their skulls from their victims’ points of view. The feeling of a punch that breaks a nose, the sledgehammer impact and burn of a bullet, the indescribable feeling of one’s neck being opened like a zipper. They smelled the blood and cordite, felt the pheromones of fear. They heard the screams, the cries, the unanswered pleas for mercy.

PUNISHMENT is the story of a detective, troubled by his cases in a wholly unique fashion. Barnes is literally being haunted by the victims whose memories he has experienced. They live within him. They are slowly eating away at who he is. The struggle of this mental deterioration and hunting a serial killer create an atmosphere of tension throughout this short, but well-rounded novel. This isn’t a novel for those readers looking for twists and turns at every corner, although there are enough to satisfy, I would categorize this book as more of a slow-burn thriller. PUNISHMENT is perfect for readers who love the world of a police procedural being led by a troubled detective. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future!

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