Early on in Jack Kinsley’s debut thriller, Club MEDicine, we meet the novel’s main character Travis Martin, who is the director of a posh drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic that caters to the very wealthy. Travis has done quite well with his endeavor, and his philosophy, when it comes to insisting that his clients following the rules, is ” don’t push a wealthy peg into a poor hole.” Travis himself is a recovering addict and so, one would assume, knows better. But such is the situation he has created when the novel opens.
As the head of the rehab, Travis is expected to be a paragon of recovery but when the pressures of running a business begin to take their toll, and family issues add to the pressure, he slips and begins using again. And now Travis has a terrible secret he must hide – the head of a rehab empire is himself using drugs again. If his secret is exposed, he may lose the facility but, more importantly, he may lose his daughter. What ensues is a thriller that explores the lengths we will go to protect what we love but that also explores the masks and identities we create for ourselves and what happens when they crumble.
This is an exceptionally well written and taut novel, and a psychological thriller in the best sense of the word. Its setting, a drug rehab, is the perfect place for the author to delve into the duality in all of us – the ability that each of us has to do good and do evil.
As a thriller, it is hard to find fault with Kinsley’s novel and readers will find it, as they say, gripping.
Given, however, that one of the themes of the novel is a life threatening illness (addiction) and given the degree to which the war on drugs and the misdirection of funds to law enforcement (rather than to the treatment of addicts) has damaged us as a culture, there were moments of glibness in Club MEDicine that were hard to stomach. A drug rehab may be the perfect setting for a thriller, but it is also the home of an enormous amount of psychic pain and suffering. One hopes that readers are able to enjoy the twists and turns of this thriller without reducing addiction and those who suffer from it to caricature. Or worse, to assume that all treatment facilities are like the one describe in Kinsley’s book. They are not. It is not Mr. Kinsley’s job to point that out in the middle of what was designed to be (and is) and entertaining psychological thriller. But perhaps the author, in his next novel, can bring his considerable storytelling talents to a story that is more reflective of the actual experiences of most addicts.