Fighting depression in a Toronto psychiatric ward, Cordi must throw herself back into harm's way when another patient dies. Was it murder?
Struggling to escape the sticky blackness of clinical depression, zoologist Cordi O’Callaghan is admitted to a psychiatric ward in Toronto. As she slowly recovers, one of the patients dies. Cordi must convince a skeptical medical staff that the woman has been murdered, while healing her own mind at the same time. Her suspects include medical personnel and patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, OCD, and panic disorder. Martha, Cordi’s lab technician, tries in dramatic fashion to help Cordi solve the murder, while Jacques, a recovering alcoholic, helps out and steals Cordi’s heart along the way.
About the Author
Suzanne F. Kingsmill is a zoologist by training and the author of the Cordi O’Callaghan mystery series, four non-fiction books, and numerous magazine articles. She lives in Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
The pain of the dark. Eternal blackness smothering my mind. I felt so alone, lying there, staring at the ceiling. It hadn't changed through all my days of darkness, and neither had I. We were both water-stained. Me by tears, and the ceiling by the rain seeping in through some wayward hole. But at least the stain on the ceiling vaguely represented something: a seagull sailing on the wind, its wings tilted up toward the sky in the exact opposite direction that I represented, which was nothing, miles and miles of nothing, in a spiralling descent downward.
I could hear the clatter of dishes down the hall, but the dissonant sounds didn't mean anything to me. It was just noise. Dark noise. And into that wrenching blackness, a voice my brother Ryan’s, who could not reach me where I was.
“It’s time to go, Cordi.”
I didn't care about going or staying. I was beyond that. Ryan had to pull me off my rumpled bed and lead me out into the sticky black sunshine. I found myself in his dusty old car and wondered vaguely why I was there. I sat immobile and watched the cars go by as we drove through the congested streets of Toronto, until the motion of the car put me to sleep.
Ryan woke me and helped me out of the car into a parking lot covered with a monotony of cars. We weaved our way through them. We went inside a big concrete building that loomed eight or ten storeys above us, and Ryan sat me down in a crowded hallway and left me there. One among many, sitting on hard metal chairs, waiting. Waiting for what?
It was some sort of hospital because there were people in white lab coats. But I stayed there, where Ryan had left me. I guess time passed and he came back for me, bringing with him a red-headed woman dressed all in white, who extended her hand to me. I stared at it, but I did not take it. Seemed so pointless. Why take a hand when the emptiness inside me would render the gesture meaningless?
“I have to go now, Cordi,” said Ryan, and I looked up at him and saw nothing, felt nothing. He kissed me on the forehead and turned to go. I did not turn to watch him leave.
The nurse babbled on about nothing in particular as she led me to an elevator and we went up and up, the little red floor numbers above the door flashing red as we passed them, until the elevator spewed us out into a small lobby. There were glass doors at either end and a glassed-in nursing station straight ahead. She opened one of the doors and led me down a wide grey-tiled hall with painted cinder-block walls. The room I followed her into was a box with beds. I was vaguely aware that there seemed to be a lot of them, and that made me think for some reason of an orphanage, although I had never been to one.
I was an orphan, too. I was an orphan from life.
She must have told me her name, the nurse, but I hadn't taken it in as she gently placed my belongings on one of the beds and said something else I didn't take in. Didn't care to take in. I looked at my belongings. They looked so pathetic and lonely, just like me. The nurse left and I curled up on the bed, cradling my head on my hands. There wasn’t even a curtain to give me some privacy
“You try to kill yourself?” The voice was soft and quiet. She moved her head into my line of sight. Jet-black hair cut in a Cleopatra hairstyle that made her improbably round face look like a balloon. But there was nothing balloonish about her troubled eyes. They were so sunken that they almost imploded into themselves, reflecting a world surely alien to mine. Or maybe not. We stared at each other, but I did not move from where I lay. Not a muscle.
“Naw. You're too out of it to have tried that,” she said, answering her own question. She’d been there, to that place where you couldn’t even lift a finger to help yourself, the place where I was now. I knew it without her having to tell me.
She sat there and talked at me. She kept talking about her “sieve of a mind.” I do remember she told me a joke that made her cackle with a laugh that went on and on and on. And made me want to cry and cry. It was about two little birds on a telephone wire and one little bird says to the other little bird, “Don't some people's voices make your feet tingle?”
I didn't laugh. I remember that. Looking back now, I wonder if she had sensed what was coming, in some way.
When she left I slept for centuries, dreaming dark dreams and empty hopes. I was in a huge barn, with a man, a man who was not my father, and I was swinging on a swing strung high from the rafters and I saw my parents and my brother crying, because they could not find me. Back when I was a little girl. Back when I was going to be a writer. So long ago. So far away.
And the nightmares mercifully faded and I was conscious only of eating, of swallowing pills, aware of people crowded around my bed asking endless questions to my stony silence.
No, I did not try to kill myself. Of that I was sure.
I lived in a daze, the memories of my mind interlaced with the tendrils of a fog that watered down everything I did, everything I was, till I felt I was but a blur on my mind’s horizon, wearing a caution sign that read Severely Reduced Visibility Forever Ahead.
And then one morning I woke up and the sun didn't look quite so black and I felt a tiny quickening in my mind that I had despaired of ever feeling again. I nursed that little glimmer the way one would a small ember in a hearth and day by day it got bigger until one day I spoke. It wasn't much, but it was a way back.
There was, finally, a grey dingy light at the end of the tunnel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
CRAZY DEAD a terrific book! The fact Cordi is left defenseless by her depression is unnerving. You will feel the need to try and guide her to the right path. This book intrigued me because the setting is in Canada. Also, the brave subject of mental health. T couldn't possibly name all the developed characters. Each contains a mini story of their own. Cordi's brother Ryan is the one who dropped her off at the psychiatric hospital. She felt emotionless and non-existent. Therapy and medicine aided her to begin a daily routine in the hospital. The employees at the hospital are tantalizing and complex. They become woven into the drama and tale. The mention of ECT and Scientology also had my attention. Cordi experiences many events. The twist is we are not certain if they are real, or delusions. Delusions are believable! As long as the main event is plausible. Put yourself in the scenario along with the patient, and all the facts and events become real!Everything is obvious! Why doesn't everyone else see! Everyone else is wrong! How do we know if someone if delusional when they seem so normal. We begin to question ourselves on the facts surrounding Cordi. The author wrote an outstanding book for us to read and decipher. I feel as if I missed out on the obvious, and should reread the book! I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I give this book five stars. Kris
Zoologist Cordi O’Callaghan, after having almost died solving a previous case, finds herself immersed in depression. She has suffered with this before, but her brother finally had to get her out of bed and checked into a psychiatric ward at a Toronto hospital. As she is recovering and joining the world again, one of the other patients dies, in the bed next Cordi. Cordi sees her lying there with her eyes open and a silk scarf around her neck. Almost before she knows it, the girl is whisked away and no one believes her. Her suspects include a dubious medical staff, other patients who are suffering from a myriad of mental illnesses … schizophrenia, Bipolarism, Alcoholism, Panic Disorder, Paranoia. And even her own brother is acting suspiciously. She then meets Jacques, hospitalized for alcoholism, who seems to be the only person who believes her. But when several attempts on her life occur, she’s not sure she can trust him. Is he really who he says he is? Is anything the way it seems? This was a surprising read for me. With a new author, one never knows what they’ll get. This was a well-written book. Cordi is a strong character, even when she’s fighting her depression. There are lots of interesting suspects … after a while I thought they were all guilty. The ending really took me by surprise! I would like to go back and read the first 3 books in this series. Without peeking, I bet her backstory is terrific. Many thanks to the author / Dundurn / NetGalley who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.