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By Alexandra Sokoloff. A district attorney spirals down the rabbit hole of insanity – or does he?

Author: Alexandra Sokoloff
Publisher: Piatkus • 310 pages • £6.99
ISBN: 978-0-7499-4163-5 • OUT NOW!

First published in the US in 2007, this is the first UK printing for Alexandra Sokoloff’s second book, courtesy of Piatkus, who are fast developing a solid line in horror.

Sokoloff is the latest in a long line of novelists with screenwriting aspirations, and it’s easy to see The Price unfold in your noggin like a glossy, mid-range Hollywood chiller. Though in this case, that’s no bad thing.

Boston district attorney Will Sullivan is born of politico stock and is on his way to the very top, dreaming of becoming the next governor of Massachusetts. But his daughter, Sydney, lies dying of cancer in the monstrous Briarwood hospital complex, and his wife, Joanna, is going mad with grief. Sullivan is approached by the mysterious Salk, who intimates that miracles can be procured… for a price. Sullivan rebuffs him, but does his wife?

Sokoloff pops us right inside Sullivan’s head and shows us a rounded character. Her warts and all approach to the human psyche pays dividends as she teases us: is Sullivan mad, or is all this really happening? It’s a common enough trick, but rarely pulled off so well as it is here.

At times the story becomes repetitive, as Sullivan heads off yet another time into the secret hospital behind a hospital he finds at the back of a lift. Another author might have made a little more of Sullivan’s struggles to divine the truth once his daughter is seemingly cured – heck, Stephen King could have lingered on this for another 1,000 pages. But that’s only a drawback insomuch as the story feels disappointingly undernourished. And this lion-hearted DA caves too rapidly when he’s confronted with the reality of his situation. Otherwise, this is a gripping, if brief, read. Guy Haley

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