The Night Bird (Frost Easton Mystery), by Brian Freeman

This is the first of two books by Brian Freeman featuring San Francisco detective Frost Easton, a smart and generally gentle policeman.

In this first book a woman leaves a party with her roommate. They both are caught in a traffic jam on the Golden Gate Bridge. The passenger has a phobia about bridges and the driver is calm but suddenly starts scratching at her skin and screaming. Within seconds she leaves the car, runs to the bridge railing, and throws herself off the bridge.

Easton is called to the scene and thinks the suicide is suspiciously similar to another woman who went berserk in a similar way in a bar and shot herself. As he investigates what they have in common he meets psychiatrist Francesca Stein (yes, Frankie Stein is noted in the book) who has developed a controversial phobia treatment in which she helps people by erasing and changing memories of the incident that first initiated the phobia. She also does work as an expert witness in criminal trials. Here she explains to juries the fragility of memory and how it can be influenced to change with improper interview techniques.

Working together they learn that Stein may be a target of whoever is causing these people to suddenly end their own lives.

Easton is a likeable detective, often traveling with a cat that is part of a back story of how he can live in one of the most upscale districts in the city. He was allowed to live in the house as part of a legacy from an old woman who said that whoever took care of her cat after her death could also live there.

Beyond the mystery, which had a very good reveal, the book is interesting in the discussions of memory … its value and its fragility. It paraphrases quite a bit of recent research into things like false memories and how different questions can lead to altered answers.

It’s not Freeman’s first book or series. He’s also written two other series, one featuring Jonathan Stride and another featuring Cab Bolton. The book is available in Kindle (free on Kindle Unlimited), hard and soft cover, and both an Audible and CD versions.