Another fine novel by the author of, most recently, The Book of Dreams (1994). Dr. Terry McKechnie is working the emergency room during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, treating victims of substance abuse and gunshot wounds, when Virginia Lee, the woman he's having an affair with, checks in. She's a herpetologist and has been bitten by a rare and extremely poisonous viper, a taipan from New Guinea. Virginia brings along the appropriate anti-venom, but one of her allergies fights against its effects, and her recovery is problematical. Worse, it becomes clear that she will need blood, but she has a rare type, so rare, in fact, that even Terry's status as a universal donor is useless. After this suspenseful and affecting opener, the novel moves backward in time, to portray the origins of Terry and Virginia's love affair. Virginia is the new wife of Terry's old friend Rick, but the two are helplessly, hopelessly drawn to each other, which they first realize soon after the wedding. Both are moral people, deeply troubled by how they're hurting Rick in a situation that's made even more complicated by Rick's agony at his wife's bedside. He suspects the affair, and he strikes out at Terry even as Terry tries doggedly to save Virginia. In a subplot, Terry's expensive foreign car has recently been stolen. From a police line-up, he identifies ``Number 2'' as the thief, and the suspect, out on bail, tracks Terry, threatens him, and yet also challenges him philosophically during a wild ride around Los Angeles. Turns out Number 2's blood type is the same as Virginia's, a neat though rather too convenient development. Marred by the use of coincidence and Nova's slight tendency toward melodrama. But, even so, the author's spare lyricism and philosophical manner are absorbing, original, and moving.
Read full book review >