From the "inventive...entertaining and thought-provoking" (Charles Yu) New York Times-bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State, this sweeping legal thriller follows a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time—and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up.
In 2008, a cheerful ambulance-chasing lawyer named Jay Shenk persuades the grieving Keener family to sue a private LA hospital. Their son Wesley has been transformed by a routine surgery into a kind of golem, absent all normal functioning or personality, walking in endless empty circles around his hospital room. In 2019, Shenk—still in practice but a shell of his former self—is hired to defend Wesley Keener’s father when he is charged with murder . . . the murder, as it turns out, of the expert witness from the 2008 hospital case. Shenk’s adopted son, a fragile teenager in 2008, is a wayward adult, though he may find his purpose when he investigates what really happened to the murdered witness.
Two thrilling trials braid together, medical malpractice and murder, jostling us back and forth in time.
The Quiet Boy is a book full of mysteries, not only about the death of a brilliant scientist, not only about the outcome of the medical malpractice suit, but about the relationship between children and their parents, between the past and the present, between truth and lies. At the center of it all is Wesley Keener, endlessly walking, staring empty-eyed, in whose quiet, hollow body may lie the fate of humankind.
A medical tragedy propels this subpar legal thriller from Edgar winner Winters (Golden State). In 2008, 14-year-old Wesley Keener falls at his L.A. high school and is rushed to a hospital to treat the resulting subdural hematoma. When the surgery doesn't go as planned, Wesley emerges permanently brain-damaged. Attorney Jay Shenk persuades the boy's parents, Beth and Rich, to sue the hospital and the medical personnel involved. Neuroscientist Theresa Pileggi, an expert on the human brain, testifies at the subsequent trial on the plaintiff's behalf. In 2019, Shenk is drawn back into the case when Rich is charged with the premeditated murder of Pileggi, who was both shot and hit in the head with a lamp. After Rich confesses and potentially faces the death penalty, he fires his public defender, placing Shenk in the difficult position of trying to save the life of a client who wants to be executed. The shifts between events a decade apart confuse more than they generate suspense, and Wesley's plight has little emotional impact. Winters has been better in crafting characters readers will connect with.
Compelling yet a bit Confusing
The two timeline threads of the book, the original legal case and the murder investigation ten years later, draw closer as the book comes progresses to its end. Those two stories made the crux of the book very compelling and the characters well drawn. But, the overlay of the science fiction or otherworldly element possessed by the “boy” and a seemingly charismatic yet unhinged guru-type, muddied the storyline beyond true clarity, resolution and ultimately, satisfaction. Or, maybe, I just didn’t get it.
Just not that engaging
I kept waiting for the book to take off. While it got a little bit more interesting about a third of the way through it never really captured my imagination. I didn’t find any of the characters compelling.