A doctor defends himself from an all-too-plausible rape allegation in this scalpel-sharp medical thriller.
When 17-year-old Kristen Kroiter, a former patient, kills herself after penning a diary entry describing a sexual encounter with him, hotshot emergency-room surgeon Ted Cogan faces an uphill battle to clear his name. Kristen had indeed spent the night at his home when she washed up there drunk after a frat party. Cogan had been drinking a little too, and Kristen’s best friend swears she saw them in bed together. Anyone who knows him can imagine the 40-something Cogan, a notorious womanizer with an eye for college girls, in the scenario. For detective Hank Madden of the Menlo Park, Calif., police department, that–along with a personal animus stemming from his traumatic past–is enough to charge Cogan with statutory rape and manslaughter. It’s also enough to draw readers into this subtle and engrossing mystery. As Cogan struggles to reconstruct that night’s events, first-time novelist Carnoy paints a landscape of complex, flawed characters, mixed motives and twisting intrigue. He takes readers into the toxic office politics of a hospital surgery department, the rancid machinations of a frat house full of horny kids on the make and the romantic fantasies of young girls, fueled by a volatile mixture of innocence and desire. Tautly paced and full of crisp dialogue, Carnoy’s prose is pitch-perfect whether delving into medical and police procedural or sussing out the nuances of campus hookup culture. In Cogan, he’s concocted an appealing, edgy protagonist–cocksure, arrogant and abrasive towards his less competent colleagues and â€œdifficult” patients, but possessed of a roguish charm that makes readers want to tag along, even if they’re not sure where his moral compass is pointing.
A gripping thriller debut that is just what the doctor ordered.