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Strangely Familiar by Steve Heikens

Strangely Familiar

by Steve Heikens

356 pages
Empathy solves a teenager’s disappearance and connects the Strangely Familiar.

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Category: Fiction:Mystery
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About the Book
A maverick detective, James Julius, feels a strange connection to a feisty teenager. Fourteen-year-old Amy had stabbed her uncle, who she believed was going to rape her. Her belief came from “reading his mind”. Julius arrested her, but doesn’t buy her telepathic explanation. He is a hard-nosed detective who believes that facts solve crimes…especially when hashed out over nice Irish ale. But there is something about Amy that won’t let go of him.

After Amy’s lawyer is stabbed in the same way as her uncle, Amy disappears. Julius must now go under the facts. He is required to deal with Amy’s guardian, Vivian, whose right wing politics create an emotional roller coaster for anyone for around her.

Strangely Familiar is told in present tense and is deeply rooted in the streets, buildings and bars of Minneapolis and St. Paul about 2012, with a brief adventure into San Francisco.

While bemoaning Amy’s contradictions, Julius learns that sexual harassers & abusers may have an instinct for identifying who is vulnerable. He is not sure if Amy is a perp or a victim, but he feels compelled to find her. In his attempt to figure out whether she has run away or been kidnapped, he crosses a politically correct line. The Chief of Police suspends him for a privacy violation and blocks his search for Amy. To continue his search, Julius accepts a temp job as a reporter, going semi-undercover.

His new editor associates him with Amy and cynically assigns him to a paranormal story. Julius rejects ESP as nonsense. But when he starts seeing things that others don’t see and hearing voices when others aren’t speaking, he fears he’s losing his mind. He keeps encountering strangers who feel familiar to him and professionals who explain his visons and odd emotions as the side effects of empathy or mirror neurons.

Some former enemies on the police force label him unstable. They exploit his impulsiveness and make him a suspect for intrusions into a lawyer’s office, a therapy center and the judicial system. Julius’s memory for important details is fuzzy. His attorney uses a hypnotist to fill in the gaps. Details are recalled, but there is no way to verify whether they are accurate or not.

As he meets more people who have been abused, Julius perceives a mysterious link between victims and perpetrators. He suspects that when people have experienced similar severe pain, they become strangely familiar to each other–as if communicating openly by an emotional Wi-Fi.

Julius feels more unnerved about his mental health and retreats inwardly. Unexpected help arrives from friends including two academics with heart, his oddball ex-partner and his neighbor. Strangers–a playful gypsy, a hacker who digs deep under emails, a retired journalist who resurrects the Jewish Mafia of the 1940, and a rogue priest–provide co-incidents that perplex him, but help connect the dots and locate Amy. Julius realizes that emotions can be trusted and that logic alone will not solve a mystery–it needs empathy.

 

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About the Author
Steve Heikens is a trial lawyer who has grown aware of the importance of empathy in fights against sexual harassers, child abusers, and bully bosses. He’s an Iowa farm boy, an antiwar activist, hitchhiker, an adult student of neuroscience, live theater, and human consciousness in its many forms.

 

 

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