Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson

Book Review – Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson

Book Description:

Argus Ward is a former U.S. Secret Service agent who runs a protection agency catering to the rich and famous. His best-kept secret–which he shares with lawyers, doctors and even psychiatrists–is his status as a high-functioning paranoid schizophrenic. One day, with little warning, he turns psychotic for the first time in twenty years. He lands in a secure psychiatric facility, charged with the murder of his most famous client, high tech industry billionaire John Helms, the wealthiest man in America.

Argus has no memory of the killing. A blood test suggests to him that some unknown enemy had switched his anti-psychotic medication with identical-looking dummy pills to purposely drive him insane. A sign of lingering paranoia? His doctor thinks so. Even his wife.

Yet Argus escapes incarceration to prove his theory. With the law on his trail and a ticking time bomb in his head–due to a lack of medication–he discovers that his disease had been “weaponized” by a powerful group to secretly assassinate John Helms as part of a multiple assassination conspiracy of world-wide significance.

Or has Argus simply lost his mind again? What in the end is “real” and what is only imagination in his story? And what is justice for the criminally insane? Come lose your grip on reality. Read CRACK-UP.


I think that the next time someone I know says something disparaging about how badly-written self-published books are, I’d tell them to read Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson. It’s a lot to ask from a $0.99 book, but I’ll be holding this up as an example of a self-published book gone right. The author didn’t get it totally right (he needed a good editor, for example, to tighten things up some more), but in terms of techniqual quality (formatting, proof-reading) – it’s right up there with the vetted trade publications, even better at times. Crack-Up is a well-written mystery with a bonus – a very unique central character in the high-functioning paranoid schizophrenic Argus Ward.

I bought this from Amazon since I thought the plot was so unique. I’m a fan of the psychotic Dexter series of books (and the Dexter TV series), so I have no problem with reading about how a paranoid schizophrenic murderer goes about trying to prove that he was but a pawn in a complex assassination conspiracy. Just because you’re crazy doesn’t mean that someone isn’t after you 😉 Actually, I had a lot of fun reading and trying to figure out the mystery with the cracked-up Argus Ward.

Argus Ward isn’t the most likeable of characters – he’s very uptight and unemotional (he never quite convinced me of his love for his wife & family, for one), and as mentioned, he’s pretty much crazed out of his mind for majority of the book. I did like how the author Eric Christopherson was consistent with his character – that’s just his personality and it worked with how the plot was set up – but the minus is that I was never particularly emotionally attached to Argus.

Notice that I’m calling this a mystery – since I wouldn’t really call it a ‘thriller’ (even though it’s supposed to be a thriller). The flow of the plot was a little slow (it starts out even a bit boring), and I never really got the heart-pounding ‘danger’ or excited feeling while reading it. Maybe it had to do with not being emotionally attached to the central character, but there was definitely a lack of some X-factor that characterizes a really excellent thriller that can rev up your adrenaline as a reader. It’s strange since the plot is pretty good actually. The reader is pretty much in the dark – like Argus – and we get to ride shotgun on Argus’ crazy rollercoaster experience wondering what is real? what’s hallucination? On the plus side, the narrative voice is very dry and droll, with a dose of the dark comedy. I’m not sure if the author set out with that in mind – but it’s there – like when Argus ends up having testy conversations with Darth Vader or pouring out his heart to a sympathetic Albert Einstein statue. I thought those scenes would be marvellous to see in live action – sort of sad and funny at the same time.

So, in short – it’s not very exciting, but I thought it was a fascinating study of a character I’ve never seen in fiction – a paranoid schizophrenic trying to do the right thing while in the throes of a psychotic break. Basically, plus points for just being unique 🙂

Crack-Up by Eric Christopherson is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($0.99). It is also available as an eBook at B&N for $0.99. Kobobooks has it for $2.39.

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  1. Meg
    March 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Sounds like a good book. I think that’s pretty awesome that the author had the courage to self-publish!

    • March 31, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Yup, it is a good book – not as exciting as I wanted, but still good.

  2. Eric Christopherson
    April 2, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Hey thanks for the review. I thought this was one of the most insightful takes on the book I’ve found. Genre-wise, I’ve alway considered the book a hybrid mystery-thriller–which may partly explain why my literary agent couldn’t find a home for it among the major publishers. But over 16,000 readers have purchased the book by now, and the feedback has been very satisfying overall. This new ebook age rocks!

    FYI, I’d consider The Prophet Motive, which is currently only available at Amazon, as the only straight thriller I’ve written.

    • April 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks for dropping by my blog 🙂 The ebook age indeed rocks, giving self-published authors a chance on their own 🙂

      Hmm… I should check out The Prophet Motive then… 🙂

  1. December 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

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