The Cuts That Cure by Arthur Herbert
Dr. Alex Brantley has been a man teetering on the brink well past too long. Three years earlier, Frieda had left him, and since that time he'd narrowed his life down to taking temporary replacement gigs at hospitals or practices wherever he could, living in provided housing, and grabbing some sleep whenever he could. With massive student loan debt for medical school hanging over his head and the frantic, life-and-death pace of the emergency room surgeon, his coping mechanisms had long since failed. They were now manifesting themselves in dangerous ways.
Now back in west Texas, in a town much like the one he grew up in, Alex was completing his final shift at his latest contract when a case came through the ER doors that shoved him right over the edge. But before he can successfully fulfill his last act of self-destruction, the police intervene, and Alex is placed in a facility for observation, where he finally gets the help he desperately needs.
Critical to Alex's recovery, though, is for him to leave medicine. So, rather than seek reinstatement of his medical license, which he lost as a result of his implosion, he chooses to pursue a career as a teacher.
He lands his first position teaching science and coaching track at the high school in Three Rivers, Texas.
But what with the internet and Google, Alex's past is soon uncovered, and speculation quickly spreads through the small town. Alex, however, maintains his candor about his past, weathering the storm better than he expected. He gets a dog, immerses himself in the life associated with the school, and starts to feel like; maybe, things are going to work out.
Stu Perry is a successful real estate attorney with an office in San Antonio and is an integral part of the town. The father of one of Alex's students, Stu invites Alex to barbeques, hunting trips, and other activities where he mixes and mingles with the upper crust of the Three Rivers community. But as Alex and Stu continue to associate, Alex soon realizes that some of Stu's clients aren't regular real estate speculators and have their hands in some dark and deadly dealings across the border in Mexico.
Life takes a turn for the worse when Alex's student loans up their game for repayment, and a student he'd been tutoring in physics decides to act on a dark and hidden desire. Then suddenly, Stu's most sinister client offers Alex an opportunity to make all his problems disappear.
The Cuts That Cure was an intense, action-packed mystery/thriller that I read in one sitting, cover to cover. Alex was such a sympathetic character, and I had to find out how things would end up for him. His story had some shocking moments as the plot took a couple of massive twists that I never saw coming. I literally gasped out loud as I read – and kept reading.
The characters of the small west Texas town felt authentic and familiar. The personable, neighborly, and welcoming people were balanced with those with dangerous secrets and hidden lives. You never know what's going on in someone else's life, do you? The spread and escalation of gossip, including the wild speculations that became "fact," were all too true.
The plot is a rollercoaster ride. It slowly cranks up each lift, the tension mounting, and then suddenly plunges into the drop. I loved how the author entwined student Henry Wallis's plotline with Alex Brantley's: its parallel progression building a palpable foreboding as it inched its way toward involving Alex in a most unfortunate way.
With an engaging main character, an evocative setting, and adrenaline-rich action, I recommend THE CUTS THAT CURE to mystery and thriller readers who have the stamina to take a gut punch or two along with the blood and gore.