The Tree of Thorns

Fiction - Thriller - General
322 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2020
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Author Biography

Bob Goodwin has been writing for many years. He has been a registered nurse with psychiatric and counselling qualifications and has a background of over thirty-five years working in mental health settings, and this experience has been a significant influence on his work.

He has written novels, screenplays, short stories and plays, and one-act plays. Several of his shorter works are available on his website for free, as is a free self-help eBook for managing anxiety and stress.

While Bob writes crime and comedy, most of his work is of the suspense thriller genre. He has written six novels the most recent being “The Tree of Thorns” – set in a mental institution and described as “a work of fiction surrounded by truth”.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite

The Tree of Thorns is a medical thriller that will captivate your attention and imagination. Bob Goodwin created a “fiction wrapped around the truth” that will keep you glued to the pages. Jackson Hammond is a trainee at the Holman Mental Hospital. As he transfers from each lodge house, he learns there is corruption on all levels. An unusual amount of deaths happen in the Holman Mental Hospital and Jackson feels one patient, Ezra, may be a witness. Ezra’s increase in drug therapy prevents him from revealing what he knows. Things speed up when Jackson’s friend and co-worker disappears. Jackson knows he is playing a dangerous game with players who are not afraid to kill, but he can’t let the cynical darkness that is hovering swallow up Ezra.

From the first chapter, The Tree of Thorns enthralled me. Bob Goodwin adds a perfect touch of mystery and thrill, with bits of shock that fascinate. The plot has multiple layers of deceit and deception. When it all unravels, it is amazing to see how Goodwin fed snippets of truth and sly pretense to direct the reader to one conclusion when there were many. The pace is steady as Jackson has to keep up his appearance of innocence by working at the Holman Mental Hospital. The characters are well-developed, even the patients in the hospital. What I really loved about this book was how the author gave a unique voice to the characters, even if they will die later. I love the way Goodwin describes the people and places; the mood changes with each difference. Overall, I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from Goodwin.

Deborah Lloyd

In 1976 in Australia, Jackson Hammond, a twenty-four-year-old psychiatric nurse trainee, was assigned to the Holman Mental Hospital. It did not take long for him to realize the facility provided poor care. Many staff mistreated the patients, calling them foul names and hitting them. Patients were routinely overmedicated to keep them sedated and less troublesome to the staff. He also became aware there had been over thirty patient deaths in the past eighteen months. Detectives Bronwyn Branson and Austin McTavish also became suspicious of the facility’s operations. The Tree of Thorns, written by Bob Goodwin, is a thrilling, suspense-filled story. He notes it is based on real events, which makes the plot even more frightening. Jackson’s caring and ethical values propel him into trying to provide good care to his assigned patients. At the same time, he was being watched and his life was in danger.

While there are many characters in this book, the author describes them all succinctly, making it easy for the reader to picture each one. He also defines the patients as individuals with distinct personalities. This is especially true with Ezra, a kind family man, who receives great doses of sedating drugs to keep him quiet. Jackson befriends him, probably saving his life. Another intriguing aspect is the relationships Jackson forms among the staff, as he learns who can be trusted, and who cannot. Author Bob Goodwin has penned a compelling novel in The Tree of Thorns. It will engross the reader from the first page to the last!

Romuald Dzemo

The Tree of Thorns by Bob Goodwin is an engaging psychological thriller from a skilled writer, a perfect read for fans of the genre. At Holman Hospital, patients are dying. And there is enough reason to believe something nasty is happening to them. The detectives that are working the case can’t do much and they are far from solving the case. Jackson is a trainee nurse and a good friend to Ezra, a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Ezra knows something is wrong at the hospital because he has seen it, but no one will believe him, even if he spoke out, and someone seems to be determined to keep him quiet. He has been predicting terrible things for years, including mind control and knowledge repression. When Jackson starts getting framed, he knows he must uncover the truth, and time isn’t something he has. With few allies, he is determined to bring the secrets of the hospital to light.

“An unseasonable wind and early autumn chill whistled around the eaves of the aged building.” That is the image the author offers readers at the start of the story and one that already establishes the building as a character in the story, an image that readers will interact with as the tale moves forward. The sense of pervasive loneliness and abandonment accompanies everything about Holman Hospital. Bob Goodwin’s writing seduced me, from its crispiness to the exact word choice, loaded with imagery and symbolism, to the ease with which the author captures details as he describes the scenes. The characters are well-developed and I loved the way Ezra is written; a disturbed mind with a lot going through his consciousness. The Tree of Thorns explores a disturbing theme and features characters that readers will care about. It also depicts the maltreatment that patients suffer in some mental hospitals.

Darryl Greer

Author Bob Goodwin draws on his experience of over 30 years in the field of mental health for his latest thriller, The Tree of Thorns. Holman Mental Hospital is the asylum from Hell reminiscent of the line in the Eagles’ song, Hotel California – “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.” Run by a doctor – Melody Harper -- who’d be quite at home working alongside Dr. Josef Mengele, far too many patients have been unable to leave. Even on a good day, patients are mistreated by the nurses, they are overdosed and housed in dreadful living conditions. Now the police are taking an interest but progress is slow and things do not appear to be getting any better. One of the trainees at the facility is Jackson who forges a bond with a patient, Ezra, a former bricklayer who witnesses something dreadful but in his comatose state from the overdosed drugs, he is unable to tell anybody what he has seen. As Jackson uncovers what is really going on at Holman, what he eventually discovers will send shockwaves through the facility and beyond.

This story is set in Australia in the 1970s and the author does a great job of describing the scenes, places, and dialogue of that era. With the author’s background, he has been able to provide an in-depth look at a facility of this kind, although it is hoped it is not typical of any current-day hospital for the mentally ill. Certainly, he seems to know a great deal about psychiatric illness and the medicines and treatment for it. In the earlier chapters, descriptions of conditions in the hospital tend to be very similar from one chapter to the next and at times the dialogue does not appear to be taking the story forward but the pace does pick up as the story gets closer to its dénouement and becomes a real page-turner, earning its appellation as a thriller. Some scenes, so vividly described, are best not read while you are eating your breakfast. Characterization, especially of the leading characters such as Jackson, Harper, Ezra, and some others, is good. The Tree of Thorns is a very unusual, most interesting novel, not the typical medical thriller, the kind for which Robin Cook is famous, and Bob Goodwin deserves credit for showing us that there are plenty more plotlines to explore in the medical thriller genre.

Shannon Winings

Like many good thrillers, The Tree of Thorns by Bob Goodwin is set in a mental hospital, specifically the Holman Mental Hospital in Australia circa 1976. Jackson Hammond has just started working as a mental health nurse trainee and is already smelling something fishy. Jackson forms a bond with Ezra, a patient with paranoid schizophrenia who may know more about what is happening. Unfortunately, Ezra is kept on an enormous amount of medication interspersed with shock therapy for his mental health, though Jackson suspects it is to keep him quiet. At least he hasn’t been killed. Yet, as Jackson continues to move around the hospital, he finds corruption woven throughout its framework and learns he is facing an evil with a penchant for murder.

While The Tree of Thorns is labeled as fiction, it has enough truth and realism to have you reeling and on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, there has been a history of corruption in mental hospitals, though deinstitutionalization has closed most hospitals now. After reading this, I hope that all hospitals are monitored and no one has to go through such horrors. Bob Goodwin did a superb job with imagery and there were many moments where I had to stop reading because I could see everything so vividly. I also appreciated the knowledge the author so obviously had about Australia and mental health – as he should since he is Australian and has experience in nursing and mental health settings. As someone who is also in this field, it is refreshing to see a book where these aspects are detailed.

Kim Rye

I loved this book . I'm not usually one for reading novels , but this one caught my eye due to having "truths" in it . I read it within a 24 hour period because I found it hard to put it down . Some may not realise just how much reality is in this and anyone who has had anything to do with the mental health system with know just how "real" this novel is I personally found some parts a hard read , mostly because I know a lot of the types of things in the book really would happen in mental institutions . So I was in tears during certain parts . Yet I still couldn't put the book down . Also , just as I thought I had the story figured out and had predicted what would come next , my predictions would be wrong . This kept me wanting to keep reading to find out more . All in all , I highly recommend this book . Just be ready with the tissues , in case , like me, certain parts hit you in the heart .