Title: The Treatment
Author: Sarah Moorhead
Genre: General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Speculative Fiction
Release Date: 31st August 2023
The future of law enforcement has arrived, courtesy of private health contractor Janus Justice. Their ground-breaking ‘Offender Treatment Programme’ has been hailed as the most effective way of tackling crime yet.
As offenders move through the four-tiered system, their needs are dealt with, each tier more drastic in its methods:
Tier One: Low-risk crimes. Physical therapy encouraged
Tier Two: Trauma and addiction. Emotional and psychological reasons for offending are examined
Tier Three: Aversion therapy & moral punishment
Tier Four: Siberia, where all hope is lost
But Grace Gunnarsson, one of Janus’ most highly regarded rehabilitation psychiatrists, has uncovered a terrible flaw in the system, one that is allowing people to get away with murder...
The first thing that drew my attention to this book was the bright striking cover, with its waves and of course the eye. We later learn in the book that the waves are in fact brain waves. The byline of an 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' fits with the book really well.
Dr Grace Gunnarsson has come a long, long way, so far successfully burying her past life where she was in prison with her mother, then when she lived with mothers best friend & prostitute Lottie & her son Remy. Remy is both brother and protector to Grace, they have a deep bond, and there is nothing they won't do for each other. Then when Lottie died Remy and Grace ended up choosing different paths in life, despite Grace's efforts to take Remy into her new life at university.
Some would say Grace has 'gone up in the world' and we all know the saying 'the higher they go the further they have to fall.' Grace is equally protective & secretive about this time in her life.
In the present day, Grace Gunnarsson is a highly respected and successful psychiatrist who works for Janus Justice and is married to Dan Gunnarsson yet he nows nothing of her early life. Dan is a reporter for the well known, News Flex. Dan is desperate for his big break story, and is like a dog with a bone where Janus Justice is concerned, he is determined to get the inside story.
Grace works for the somewhat controversial Janus Justice Rehabilitation centre who operate the new highly debated Tier System of punishment. The Tier system becomes harsher depending on the tier. Tier 3 is Aversion Therapy and is quite literally a dose of whatever they did wrong done to them!! The guilty person is drugged and made to witness their crime from the point of view of the victim, in the hope they never commit such a crime again. Grace isn't fully comfortable with Tier 3 and usually manages to easily avoid it, she works on Tiers 1 & 2 but when the usual psychiatrist Myriam is off sick her boss Conrad coerces Grace into 'just helping out' with the argument of 'all hands on deck' etc. Grace soon finds out that the Tier System has another level Tier 4 that is the chillingly torturous and drastic 'answer' for when nothing else works to stop the criminal reoffending.
Grace is needed to oversee the treatment of repeat offender Noah Begbroke. Noah has already been through Tier's 1 & 2 which are based on the criminals circumstances & biology Tier 3 is a more proactive treatment based on the criminals morality. Grace had assessed Noah Begbroke on Tier 1 & 2 but found there was no chemical imbalance, childhood trauma, or mental health issue - absolutely nothing that could explain his actions.
Grace watches as Noah is sedated, given drugs and the atmospheric & emotisonics, until when asked Noah says his name is that of his victim/ex girlfriend Corrinna Saunders. The crime is played out on a screen in front if Noah. Grace is not wholly comfortable with this type of therapy but she will endure this just once then take the matter of her having to be involved up with her boss Conrad again. Grace looks at the fresh Tier 3 tattoo on Noah - an image of Janus the two headed Roman God one face looking at the past the other at the future & then the number 3 in the middle. The ink that does eventually fade with time, though the worse the crime committed, the deeper the tattoo is and the longer it will last and be there for all to see.
Grace notes that Noah Begbroke is now experiencing the crime/his violence towards Corrinna as if he is her. At first he sees himself as Corrinna as her beautiful self before his attack on her then Abigail the 'effects operative' turns up the heat, the crackling of fire, even the smell of burning flesh so Noah can really experience the attack himself as Corrinna, his victim. Grace physically gags & Abigail grabs her arm digging her nails in deep in an attempt to support her but Grace can't take anymore and flees from the treatment room, but on the way past the window she sees the burnt, scarred misshapen hands and burnt face of the once beautiful Corrinna Saunders who has been watching Noah Begbroke receive his 'taste of his own medicine' Aversion Therapy.
When Grace comes out of the bathroom from being sick she finds an apologetic Conrad waiting for her. He takes her to his opulent, physical bound books - rare as paper is so expensive, thr wood panelling even though wood is extremely expensive, an effort to be more environmentally conscious. Grace stares at the brass statue of a horse racing (which is now banned) horse, Conrad brags his family had a stud farm, that's where he got the money to start Janus Justice in the US. Then the UK became interested in the Janus Justice concept. Conrad jokes that the US liked the UK NHS and the UK liked the US Janus Justice system/prisoner rehab. So Conrad built the hospitals & clinics and rents them back to the UK. Conrad finds it amusing that he is earning really big money this way.
Conrad then discusses Grace's work record. commending her on her great Tier 1 and her promotion to Tier 2 in just 18 months. Conrad commends her on her work developing new drugs then brings up the subject of her psychometric test, everyone undergoes them on a monthly basis.
This testing is part of the whole 'living transparently,' no one has real privacy anymore.
Grace uses these same tests to help find out what has caused her 'clients' to act in the way they have.
However, Grace knows exactly how to tailor her responses to the test questions, she even cleverly throws in a 'rogue' answer here and there so her almost perfect answers do not raise suspicions.
It's clear Conrad wants even more from Grace which she is initially dead set against until it turns out the records access and extra freedom within the company is something she desperately needs if she is to help someone from her past that she still dearly loves, the man she feels owes so much, Remy. Remy is destined for Tier 4 if Grace can't come up with an alternative treatment to help him fast!
Grace isnt just under intense pressure at work as her husband, Dan is speaking to victims who have witnessed/observed their attackers have Aversion Therapy to see if it has helped them or traumatised them further when seeing a mock up/recreation of what happened to them & the eye for eye justice doled out by Janus. Dan continually pesters Grace for information numerous time each with increasing pressure, 8n fact he is becoming quite demanding, but Grace takes her work confidentiality very serious and refuses to give him the insider information he desperately wants. Grace tries to reason with Dan that if she gives him any information let alone the details he is asking for she would be sacked and possibly prosecuted too! Dan's response is for her to give him enough information for one big story then he would hit the big time and earn enough to keep them both. Dan wants Grace to give up her job, stay home and have babies, make family her priority as opposed to her career. Unfortunately Grace has something she hasn't told Dan about herself & babies, another secret!
All whilst this is going there are groups of vigilantes enacting what they see as just punishment on offenders. It's one such group, the 'Diros' that Remy used to work with but when they started to go 'too far' in his opinion he left. The only problem is no one gets to just leave this group. The ex army leader takes anyone leaving personal and has the that attitude they are 'with him, or against him' so anyone leaving the group usually find themselves meeting a gruesome end or being set up for a crime they did not commit. When Remy finds out he is being set up he reaches out to Grace, or as he called he all those years ago Gracie. With his old gang and the authorities after him he asks Grace for her help. Grace needs to speak to someone about her past and she confides in Shannon one of the Tier 2 agragarian compound managers. It's with Shannon, and her boyfriend Shuggie who is a compound inmate, that Grace comes up with a final desperate plan, but will it work and with weapons involved will everyone get out alive?
Characters I immediately adored were Grace, Remy, Lottie, Shannon, Shuggie and George. Characters I instantly took a disliking to were Conrad, Abigail and weirdly Dan!
There's so much going on in this book, from the justice system to the baby screening for the violent gene, then there's the details of the torturous Tier 4. I feel theres so much I have missed out in my review. I thoroughly enjoyed and quickly became drawn into to the brilliantly meticulously detailed, and so well thought out world building of this book. The stark themes of an eye for an eye, deaths too good for them, a taste of their own medicine, cruel to be kind, so familiar in the real world and how many times have we said them, perhaps without even thinking what it would mean to live by them. Then there was the other side of the argument that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind element, which I personally really want to say totally believe and agree with but in the real, flawed world I find I can't fully get on board with, theres always that niggle of they should have it done to them and see how they feel thoughts.
It would have been interesting to hear the point of view of the victims watching their attackers undergo the aversion therapy, for example Corrinna Sanders, did she feel anything watching Noah Begbroke think he was being burnt as he had done to her.
The ending is a bit sad really. Nearing the ending of the book amid the 'last stand' against Diros theres the loss of a couple of characters, particularly one I had really become attached to. I really wanted that happy ever after together for Grace & Remy and Shannon & Shuggie.The only thing that still has me pondering a little is I didn't really get the significance of Grace putting the Funland keyring containing the photo of herself & Remy as youngsters in, into Abigails hand??
Summing up this book has amazing world building, a brilliant meticulously detailed penal system, with characters you quickly became attached to and really cared about. The book and its intriguing world and plot really had me on the edge of my seat and at one point shouting in my head 'How could you Grace!' So yes you really get pulled into the characters dynamics and their relationships. DI would definitely add this one to my favourite speculative fiction reads such as, The Sentence by Christina Dalcher, The Marriage Act by John Marrs and Overdrawn by NJ Crosskey. Speculative fiction is certainly one on my favourite genres to read and this book was wow! Definitely recommend reading!