“Amalgam-Man” by J. Matthew Neal


J. Matthew Neal
Independently Published (2022)
ISBN 9781734937282
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (12/2022)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, amalgam is a mixture of different elements. This definition is fitting for the contents of this book, aptly titled “Amalgam-Man,” by J. Matthew Neal, as it takes readers on a whirlwind of a journey through the life of eclectic academic physician, Dr. Daniel Andrew Rudbeck.

In high school, Dr. Rudbeck created a book about the amalgam-man, a character named Dr. Barclay J. Dixon. Dr. Dixon lives in excess, with luxury unimaginable to most, various hobbies and tastes, and no family to speak of. The amalgam-man helps law enforcement in his free time, using widely expensive and extravagant means, and has been with over 25,000 women, or so the story goes. This fantasy man, crafted in high school, went on to become a TV show and earned the real Dr. Rudbeck enough money to get through college and medical school and little else. Now, as a toxicologist at a small Ohio hospital, and a divorced dad of one brilliant daughter, Evie, Dr. Rudbeck is about as far from being the amalgam-man as one can get. Or is he?

When a string of cybercrime occurs across various hospital systems around the country, Dr. Rudbeck takes an interest. Then, as he’s photographing a medical function as a favor to an attendee, and one of the keynotes passes away rather abruptly, Dr. Rudbeck doesn’t take the obvious answer as the correct one. Using his own various hobbies, tinkering, and unique knowledge, Dr. Rudbeck behaves as his own amalgam-man to insert himself despite everyone’s insistence on dropping it.

Like Dr. Rudbeck, no person is defined by their career. While the author exaggerates this point and the other themes within this read in a humorous way, the message is that Dr. Rudbeck isn’t JUST a toxicologist; he has hobbies outside of his career, he’s been successful outside of medicine, and while he doesn’t necessarily see that, and others in this book don’t appreciate it, the message is there. There are a wide range of characters in Neal’s writing. From the politically correct medical heads to his black and white color loving daughter, and his fire chief cousin, the diversity of characters, dialogs, and personalities makes this an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Weaving Dr. Rudbeck’s real life with that of his own created fictional character, author J. Matthew Neal creates a twisting, turning read for mystery lovers, thrill seekers, and thought lovers alike. Successfully making mundane life interesting by the endeavors of our main character, just when you think there can’t be more to the story, something crazier than the last pops into Dr. Rudbeck’s mind. Or, just when you think Dr. Rudbeck can’t possibly be knowledgeable in yet another area, he proves us all wrong. I learned so much while solving the case alongside Ohio’s toxicologist in this well researched, seemingly plausible work of fiction. And the story within the story even had some great themes and takeaways as well.

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