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The Advocate

Placebo by Steven James

Reviewed by Dale Lewis

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"Master storyteller Steven James does it once again with his emotionally gripping yet intelligent new thriller. It is overflowing with deceit, denial, internal and intense conflicts."

If you are a connoisseur of abnormal terms like magnetoencephalography, you’ll enjoy Steven James newest fiction title, Placebo. Even if you have no clue what the word means, you’ll still enjoy picking up the book and delving into this fascinating world. Just in case you haven’t ceased reading this review and immediately googled “magnetoencephalography,” MEGis a technique for mapping brain activity using very sensitive magnetometers that record magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain.

Former illusionist and current exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks finds himself thrown into a mind manipulation conspiracy involving RixoTray, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical firms. Still reeling from his wife and sons’ tragic deaths, Jevin seeks answers to not only the less-than-upfront mind-to-mind communication research but why his family suffered as they did.

As Jevin and his associates (Charlene, Xavier and Fionna) go undercover to investigate a controversial neurological research program, little do they know what awaits them at Oregon’s Lawson ResearchCenter --- and beyond. Each one of them brings their own unique skills to the table as they uncover the far-reaching effects of these serious mind games.

Jevin Banks is as interesting and intriguing as Patrick Bowers is from the Bowers series. There are some similarities, many differences and yet the same passion in their respective fields. His friendship with Charlene becomes more entangled as they participate in the clinical study.

James develops each character beyond the token surface and blends their backgrounds and motives into the action quite well. He pushes the reader to entertain exploration of the scientific world, our own consciousness as well as elements of faith.

I found myself intrigued by statements such as “A way to serve the greater good” or “The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few” as means to validate expensive research. The disregard for anyone’s life that stood in the way of progress is also very evident within these pages.

Based on her character, Dr. Riah Colette’s quick change of heart towards the conclusion bordered on the unbelievable.Then again, this may have just been a momentary loss of judgment or sudden touch of compassion on her part. In other words, it caught me by surprise.

Master storyteller Steven James does it once again with his emotionally gripping yet intelligent new thriller. It is overflowing with deceit, denial, internal and intense conflicts. The next Jevin Banks novel will appear in the fall of 2013.

Dale Lewis now mans the front desk at the EFCA (The Evangelical Free Church of America) National Office in Minneapolis, MN. He was the graphic designer/pre-press production artist for over twelve years before being asked to step into this new role. Prior to that, he was the publications manager at his alma mater, Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN in the public relations office as well as the adviser to the college’s yearbook. He's a director/actor/writer for the Hope Church (Oakdale, MN) adult drama worship team and was the senior editor of the church newsletter. He's also written two collections of poetry, “Whispers of Assurance” and “On Life: Constant Communion Without Ceasing” as well as a devotional entitled “Eternal Education.” He and his family live in Oakdale, Minnesota.