Pulse - Michael T. Harvey

This is one of those books that must give publishers the vapours. Police procedural? Sci-fi? Mystery? Grit-lit? Well….yes, it is. All of the above. So instead of trying to label it, I’ll do my best to describe this heartfelt & thought provoking read.


The first book I read by this author was the fabulous “Brighton”, a book that remains on my Top 10 of the last few years. This one is very different but similar in all the ways that matter. It’s essentially the story of 2 pairs of brothers. One is related by blood while the other pair are bound by shared history.


Daniel & Harry Fitzsimmons have been looking after each other since their mother died 8 years ago (Dad took a hike much earlier).  They couldn’t be more different. Golden boy Harry is a football star at Harvard. He’s a straight arrow who’s determined to use his situation to provide a better life for both of them. Daniel is an insular 16 year old who will never be one of the cool kids. Instead, he hangs with fellow geeks Ben & Grace. Daniel knows he’s different. Sometimes he sees things when he touches other people, when he “entangles” his mind with theirs. It can be their darkest secret or an event that hasn’t happened yet. Either way, he always feels a pulse & knows a tiny piece of himself has been changed.


Daniel ends up renting a room from the mysterious Simon, a self professed ex-professor of quantum physics. He’s an odd duck who believes human beings transfer information across time through pulses of light & touch. And he seems to know waaaay too much about Daniel. Things are ticking along until 1 fateful night when Daniel gets a premonition & ends up stumbling across Harry’s body in one of Boston’s seedier back alleys.


Tommy Dillon & Barkley Jones are “blue” brothers, detectives & partners with the Boston PD. Barkley is a black man who’s all too aware of the racial tension simmering in Boston. It’s 1976 & only 3 years since schools became integrated. Bark is the voice of reason in the partnership, trying to keep a loose rein on the volatile Tommy. So it’s more than a little disconcerting when a woman touches him on the street one day & he feels an odd pulse. And the vision he has…well, that’s just plain weird.


They catch the call for a recent homicide & it’s the stuff of nightmares. They have a dead, white Harvard football star & a black suspect. Why was Harry Fitzsimmons in such a dangerous neighbourhood? And how did his kid brother end up at the scene? As the investigation progresses they unearth some disturbing facts about the Fitzsimmons’ past while the media has a field day with the racial implications. And Barkley will have to decide just how far he’s willing to go to protect Tommy from his personal demons.


This is a brain bender of a book. The supernatural elements & tidbits on quantum mechanics mean you have to keep an open mind & I’m not going to smugly pretend I understood all of it. But it raised fascinating questions & possibilities. If that’s not your thing, no worries. As with Brighton, Harvey gives us characters that will break your heart while stealing it. Daniel & Barkley in particular will put you through the wringer as they struggle to make the best choices. The setting is another character. From the rarified air of Harvard to the edgy neighbourhoods of Southie, Boston is portrayed in all it’s gritty, divided glory.


By the end, no one walks away unscathed & not all will survive. Daniel’s questions (and ours) are answered as the past & true identities are revealed. You’re left with a glimmer of hope that even great tragedy might eventually give way to something better. So if you’re looking for a well written & different slant on police procedurals, this should fit nicely. Besides, it’ll give you a chance to brush off all that quantum physics you’ve been dying to use. Just maybe don’t touch anyone while you’re reading