Book 1: Shock & Denial

Fiction - Suspense
388 Pages
Reviewed on 10/06/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite

Headcase: Shock and Denial by Chris K Jones is the first book in the Headcase series. Andrew Beck is a well-respected doctor and sports psychologist, the first port of call for pro athletes with troubles that need fixing. In fact, the only person whose head he can’t get into and fix is himself. While he has a life many would kill for, he has his own demons to fight. His father was a Masters Golf champion and taught Beck everything he knew about being number one, about getting to the top of his game and staying there. Add to that the physical and emotional abuse Ted Beck dished out to his son, and it’s no wonder Andrew Beck turned his back on his father and golf. The drive to succeed is still deeply embedded in him and he gets drawn into high-stakes gambling and a relationship with an underground club operator. His latest wager leads to murder and blackmail, risking everything he holds dear. Can he win the ultimate mind game or will he lose everything? He is, after all, the best at his game but is his best good enough?

Set in an alternate reality, Headcase: Shock and Denial by Chris K Jones is a suspenseful, exciting story. The prologue sets the scene for what the main protagonist becomes, giving us some insight into Andrew Beck’s mind as we read all about how he gets into other people’s minds. This story is well-written, descriptive, and makes you feel as though you are part of the story. Each chapter leads you neatly onto the next and makes you want to keep reading. There is plenty of action in the story and some twists and turns that will lead you down many dark alleyways before you find the right one. The characters are exciting and well-developed, people you either love or hate, and you will feel every emotion our main character feels. This is an excellent choice for anyone who likes stories full of suspense and is quite a unique take on the genre. Thoroughly enjoyed this, looking forward to book 2.

Keith Mbuya

Dr. Andrew Beck had taken the New York Tides’ twenty-three-year-old pitcher John Palmer through an intensive rehabilitation process during the off-season period, following John’s drug addiction issues. The Tides’ management had made it clear that they would trade John to another team if he failed to live up to their expectations. The fans and management were all keen to see how he would play at the opening game of the season against the Warriors. Albeit the Tides won, John had a breakdown during playtime and this saw Dr. Becker lose his position as a Tides’ medical practitioner. It wasn’t clear, however, whether John had fully recovered. What was clear was that his fate at the Tides’ baseball club depended on his performance. Dr. Beck goes to The Five Iron (a casino where he plays poker) to “steam off”. He then unknowingly puts himself in great trouble after cheating on a bet. What happens to Dr. Beck? Get yourself Chris K. Jones’ Headcase to learn more.

As soon as I started reading Headcase, I could not put it down. This book is a must-read for enthusiasts of sports stories. Chris K. Jones is undoubtedly an accomplished writer with a subtle and unique style of writing. He uses sophisticated vocabulary that gives the book a professional touch. His choice of words showcases his knowledge of baseball and psychology. He forges a compelling, engrossing, and fast-paced plot with a strong touch of pop culture. The characters in Headcase are tremendously developed. The author brings out their traits, yet still gives them complex personalities. For instance, it’s ironic that Dr. Becker can treat other people’s mental conditions, yet he can’t treat his own mental issues. Chris K. Jones gives very vivid depictions of his characters and scenes. I loved how this added color to my imagination. Reading through the game action scenes felt like watching an amazing movie. He switches between flashbacks and the present, filling in his characters’ background history.

Chris K. Jones harnesses enough sentiment to make me feel his characters’ emotions. This made me connect with his characters and understand why they made the choices they made. The conversations were intellectual and effortlessly witty. There is suspense, thrill, adventure, love, agony, betrayal, money, secrets, gambling, gaming action, and so much more. Headcase is the first installment in the Shock and Denial series and I can’t wait to read more installments. I loved everything about the book.

Steven Robson

Headcase Book 1: Shock and Denial by Chris K. Jones is a psychological exploration of the turbulent emotional seas shaping the lives of sporting professionals, as seen through the eyes of Dr. Andrew Beck, one of a select few psychologists who cater to the cream of competitors. This is a world of high stakes, where the slightest distraction can carry unbelievable consequences, and the intensity of media and supporter scrutiny weighs on the shoulders of all those involved to an almost insufferable degree. The thing is, it’s not just the players who suffer from these incredible tides of expectation; all of the support staff, coaches, owners, and yes, even team psychologists feel this weight. Headcase is Andrew’s story, and as he negotiates his way through the anxieties carried by his clients, he comes to realize that he is far from immune to these pressures of life. How he deals with his own issues will have the ultimate impact on his future and that outcome is far from certain.

Chris K. Jones’ Headcase Book 1: Shock and Denial is a truly wonderful read, not just for American sports aficionados, but for everyone who enjoys quality real life adventures about people living life on the edge. I love the layers of powerful emotions that pervade the characters and shape their persona; Andrew’s stormy relationship with his father and Sandra’s working connection with her mother are prime examples. For me, though, the absolute star of the show is Andrew. He is a character born in the fast lane and driven even further by his stormy relationship with his father. What makes Andrew so precious is probably his inability to look at himself with the same clarity he looks at his patients. Andrew’s demons of deception lead him to no good, and yet he fails repeatedly to call them out and deal with them. The reader can’t help taking ownership of this frustration, and that hook is almost impossible to resist as we eagerly await the next instalment of Headcase.

Rabia Tanveer

Headcase is the first book in the Shock & Denial series by Chris K. Jones. Dr. Andrew Beck was the most successful and in-demand sports psychologist for professional athletes. With great results and a high customer satisfaction rate, Andrew was the best in town, and he knew it. As an ex-golf prodigy, Andrew knew the highs and lows of competitive sports, so perhaps this was why he was able to help professional athletes. However, Andrew had his flaws and vices. Gambling was an issue for him and sooner than he realized, it took over his life. With his inside information and the cunning Fergus Mackenzie, Andrew was very close to losing it all. Before he knew it, he was stuck in a web of deceit, blackmail, and life-threatening situations that had no end in sight. What was Andrew going to do to get himself out of this mess?

Author Chris K. Jones created an atmosphere for the tension to grow and fester. Andrew’s character was sharp, cunning, and almost too clever for his own good. While his backstory is heartbreaking, the courage Andrew showed was admirable. He hid a lot from Sandra, and their marriage was not perfect, but it offered stability to Andrew, something to hold on to and feel grounded. Andrew was almost addicted to the thrill of gambling rather than the act of gambling. Since he had left pro golf behind, he needed anything to bring the same level of adrenaline back into his life. The author introduced suspense slowly into the story, but once it was introduced, it became an integral part of the story. The author kept the pace not too fast or too slow so the reader could fully enjoy the plot. The narrative was description-heavy and readers who love to immerse themselves into a story (like me) would love it!

Vincent Dublado

Book One in the Headcase Series presents Shock & Denial. Author Chris K. Jones introduces you to the intriguing world of a sports psychologist, Dr. Andrew Beck. He has a successful practice in the field with high-profile athletes in his roster of patients. He is the go-to guy of sports figures suffering from traumatic and psychological issues that accompany the pressure of sporting life. However, Dr. Beck is battling with his own traumas that date back to his childhood years, stemming from his dad’s abuse. His old wounds continue to fester, and with his insider connections, he gets entangled in the illegal world of high-stakes gambling. Fergus MacKenzie is not ideal company to keep. He is meticulous in what he does and if you cross him, he will kill you. Will Beck be able to turn his life around in a world where addiction, stress, and impulse control issues are the driving forces of human behavior?

The nature of Beck’s profession and personal life is easy to grasp. It isn’t so much about the mechanics of being a shrink but more about its emotions and the demons that plague him. Chris K. Jones’s story is one that perhaps most of us have experienced. Beck acts according to what his vocation expects from him, manages to reach out and help troubled people, yet in the process, he seems lost and doesn’t know who to run to when he is the one who becomes troubled. Moreover, you will also be inclined to ask: Is Headcase a realistic portrait of the side of athletes that we don’t get to see? I’m not an expert, but I am willing to bet that there’s a troubled athlete out there that can well illustrate what Jones has written about, and that’s your answer. With its solid characters, plotting, and dialogue, Headcase: Shock & Denial is a dramatic suspense novel that you wouldn’t want to miss reading.