Dr. Henry Steadman is decidedly not having one of those ten days. He thought he was headed for one. A successful plastic surgeon, he’s in Jacksonville, Florida to present the keynote speech at a medical conference, with plans to sneak in a round of golf at an exclusive Jack Nicklaus designed golf course with an old college friend.
While on the way to his hotel, however, he gets stopped for running a red light and things quickly go sideways. The cop is aggressive and belligerent, going so far as to cuff Steadman and put him in the back of his patrol car. Other officers show up and bizarre questions ensue, questions that demonstrate the police clearly have mistaken Steadman for someone else. After a few very scary, tense minutes things get straightened out, the rest of the cops leave, and Steadman is told by the original cop he’s being released with just a warning.
And then, while sitting in his rental car waiting for the warning to be written, Steadman sees in the rearview mirror a car pull up alongside the officer and its driver shoot the officer in the head. As the car speeds away Steadman realizes all the cops who were just there will undoubtedly think he’s the culprit, so Steadman gives chase hoping to get enough details about the car to help the police catch the shooter. Unable to catch the car, Steadman returns to the scene only to have the police open fire on him. Panicked, he flees the scene.
When he drives to the house of his old college friend, an attorney, seeking help, Steadman is horrified to find that he has also been shot dead. Clearly something sinister is going on, but with the police inclined to shoot first and ask questions later it’s a race against the clock to see whether Steadman will be able to stay free -and alive- long enough to prove his innocence.
Through roughly the first half of the book author Andrew Gross has a secondary plot evolving along with that of Steadman’s, causing the reader to wonder how the two are going to eventually mesh. And when they do, well, as unlikely as it seems Steadman’s day actually goes from bad to worse. Much worse, as there comes to be more at stake than just Steadman’s freedom, with that race against the clock taking on a whole new significance. In fact, from start to finish 15 Seconds races along at breakneck pace with Steadman in constant jeopardy, and if one is willing to sit back and just enjoy the ride I’m sure they’ll find the book to be as entertaining as any summer action movie.
However, you do have to be willing to suspend belief a bit. A bit more than I was able to completely do to be honest. Though there comes a point in the book where Steadman’s refusal to turn himself in to the police – even through an intermediary – does actually make sense in the grand scheme of the plot, the problem I had was that by the time we get to that point Steadman has already done several highly questionably, arguably flat-out illogical things. And while I know not every character is going to behave in the ideal manner all the time, I found Steadman’s early actions to be just too far out of step with his position as a (supposedly) highly intelligent surgeon for my liking.
But that shouldn’t stop you from giving 15 Seconds a whirl if it otherwise sounds like your cup of tea. My annoyance with some of Steadman’s decisions aside, the book is a page-turner, so much so I finished it in one sitting.
15 Seconds is available from William Morrow (ISBN: 978-0061655975).
– 15 Seconds by Andrew Gross –
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