Review by K. Robert Einarson

Luke McKenna, a pediatric E.R. physician in Los Angeles, is very suspicious when a young Mayan boy with a blue-crescent-moon tattoo on his chest dies mysteriously in his ER. He is drawn further into the mystery when a former girlfriend insists on seeing him and then dies mysteriously. He is forced to use all of his special ops skills from his past when he is setup for a murder and to rescue the woman he loves from a group whose research threatens the entire human race.

Philip Hawley's debut novel STIGMA is a very solid thriller that captures the spirit of a Tom Clancy novel while having a distinctive voice and style that makes it highly enjoyable to read. The book was highly anticipated and I was hopeful that it would be able to meet my expectations. Once I reached the last page, I felt it had.

He successfully captured the tormented soul of his protagonist and his conflict with his past in a way that seemed authentic. There was an interesting set of supporting characters that filled out the story nicely. The story is fast moving and keeps your attention right to the end of the 496 pages, which is an impressive feat.

I did have two concerns with the story. Luke's past as a member of an ultra-secret special ops team and his present as a pediatric E.R. physician seemed a little extreme in contrast to each other and the ending was somewhat disappointing as it felt like the story ended rather implausibly.

But neither of these concerns takes away from this very solid book. The plotting is solid, the characters are developed realistically and you don't want to put it down until the last page.

An outstanding debut.


Kevin Einarson is the publisher of Spinetingler Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Mouth Full of Bullets, Flashing in the Gutters and Spinetingler.

Return to Spring 2007 Table of Contents

2007 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved