Book Review: Placebo

1 Jul

734251_w185While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did. 

Rooted in ground-breaking science and inspired by actual research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. 

Chapter One

Steven JamesSteven James has penned 30+ books spanning the genres of psychological thrillers, prayer collections, dramas, monologues, a nine book series on creative storytelling, YA fantasy, and inspirational nonfiction. He has received wide critical acclaim for his work including four Storytelling World Honor awards, two Publishers Weekly starred reviews, and 2009, 2011 and 2012 Christy Awards for best suspense. His latest thriller, The Queen, won a 2012 ECPA Book Award and the 2012 Christy Award for Best Suspense Novel. Steven earned a Master’s Degree in Storytelling from ETSU in 1997 and is an active member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and International Association of Crime Writers.  He is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest, and has taught writing and storytelling principles on three continents.

He lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife and three daughters. When he’s not writing or speaking, he’s rock climbing, playing disc golf, or (shh….) slipping away to a matinee.

My Impressions:

Placebo was on the shortlist of novels nominated for the mystery/thriller category of the Inspy Awards. I was honored to serve as a judge of this category — so many great books! It certainly was a tough decision. Here are some of my thoughts regarding Placebo.

Jevin Banks is an illusionist turned film maker focused on exposing charlatans — televangelists, psychics and now a Nobel prize winning researcher. He along with his colleagues become entangled in a conspiracy reaching from the  boardroom of a pharmaceutical company to the Pentagon and beyond. There is a lot at stake in the research — money, power, and national security. There are also a lot of shadowy characters influencing the action.

I found Placebo difficult to get into. There is quite a bit of discourse on the theory of entanglement at the sub-atomic level. I got lost amid the quantum physics and metaphysical discussions. Finally, I had to skim rather than try to understand the theories discussed and just focus on the action. Thankfully the action took off, and I got into a better reading rhythm. The characters in Placebo are quite interesting. Jevin’s wife and twin sons were killed in a drowning incident that was no accident. It is his failure to prevent his wife’s murder/suicide that fills his nightmares and his waking life. Riah Colette, a researcher with RixoTray Pharmaceuticals is a psychopath who has learned to restrain her nature. Her quest  to understand love has led her to her current position as researcher and her involvement with Jevin near the end of the book. This novel is a thriller and there are a lot of psychopaths — complex characters and motives. At the end of the book the immediate threat is averted, but some of the characters with the least exposure and most influence have gotten away — and I think may make appearances in the next novel.

Placebo is not a book for everyone. There are some disturbing images that ramp up the creep-factor of the book. It is also not a quick read — you have to be willing to invest some time to understand the background of the research and the motivations of the characters. The faith message is subtle, and the spiritual journey of Jevin Banks has just begun. But if you like a gasp-inducing thriller, interesting characters and mental workout, you will enjoy Placebo.


(I received Placebo from the publisher for judging purposes. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

One Response to “Book Review: Placebo”


  1. Saturday Review of Books: July 6, 2013 | Semicolon - July 13, 2013

    […] Dog)51. Beckie @ ByTheBook (A Plain Death)52. Beckie @ ByTheBook (Yesterday’s Tomorrow)53. Beckie @ ByTheBook (Placebo)54. Sarah Morrison (Elizabeth Street)55. Amy @ Hope Is the Word (Through Gates of Splendor)56. Janet […]

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