“15 Seconds” by Andrew Gross

 As we meet Dr. Henry Steadman, a successful Boca Raton plastic surgeon and owner of several pain management clinics, he is trying to find the Jacksonville hotel where he will be the featured speaker at a medical conference. Sheriff’s deputies stop him for a minor infraction, then bully and threaten him as if he were a major criminal and security risk. Soon he hears gunfire and sees a dead police officer. Worse, people are shooting at him. Fleeing to save his life, Steadman is totally disoriented. He can’t believe this is happening. Or why. 

Suddenly, he is a wanted man. A policeman is dead, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has already, it seems, tried and convicted Steadman. The police ignore his explanations and ignore evidence pointing to his innocence.

Meet Amanda Hofer. Sometime before Steadman’s ordeal begins, she has the worst day of her life. Late for work and strung out on pills, she loses control of her car and ends the lives of a young mother and child. Belligerent when coherent, she is locked up and before long finds herself sentenced to 20 years. Her father Vance, a former policeman turned chronic loser, sees Amanda as a victim. Her life, like his own, is a case history in how the haves exploit and undermine the have-nots. And he’s going to hold someone accountable.

Vance Hofer has made Steadman, whose clinics prescribe the kind of drugs Amanda is addicted to, the target of his vengeance. He vows to make Steadman suffer as he has suffered. Steadman must lose a daughter as he has lost a daughter. Hofer kidnaps and tortures Steadman’s daughter, who is nearly the same age as Amanda, and controls the doctor’s behavior through this leverage. He won’t let Steadman turn himself in. If Hofer hears that the police are involved in the case or have any knowledge of Steadman’s daughter’s disappearance, she will be tortured to death.

Andrew Gross

Henry Steadman is a desperate man. He struggles to find a way to rescue his daughter, and he is nearing a complete breakdown. Enter Carrie Holmes, a valiant woman dealing with her own life-altering tragedies. She has returned from a leave of absence from her Community Relations job with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office following the death of her husband and a life-threatening injury to her son. Unlike her colleagues, she hears the logic in Steadman’s explanation and questions, and she feels the desperation in his voice. Holmes begins to believe Steadman was set up in the police shooting — that the whole scene near the Jacksonville hotel was staged.

But how? By whom? Why? …

There is much more to this review. To read the review in its entirety, as it appears in the Washington Independent Review of Books, click here: Washington Independent Review of Books » 15 Seconds

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