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DOCTOR LUCIFER

A MEDICAL THRILLER

From the Dr. Mark Lin Medical Thrillers series

A compelling if occasionally sedate thriller.

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In this installment of Lee’s Dr. Mark Lin Medical Thrillers series, the intrepid physician vies with a mysterious computer hacker.

As the story begins, Southern California-based, board-certified internist Dr. Mark Lin arrives for his usual shift at Anaheim’s Ivory Memorial Hospital. Lin is a hospitalist—a doctor who exclusively practices inpatient care—and he’s world-weary about the slow churn of neglectful patients he’s always dealing with (“Sometimes, that’s what my job comes down to: wiping away physical sickness within the morally sick,” he grouses. “Prolonging people’s lives just so they could go back to being a nuisance, a troublemaker, a menace to society”). Though his job can be tedious, Lin is at least grateful that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. He and his colleagues are startled by the announcement that in-house company emails are off-limits while the hospital deals with an attack of malware. The offending program, “Lucifer’s Worm,” is crippling computer systems worldwide in a kind of “cyber pandemic” that breaches Ivory Memorial and makes Dr. Lin’s life a nightmare. Patient names and medication orders are switched and falsified as the hacker, nicknamed Doctor Lucifer, fine-tunes his attacks. The hospital’s tech support is outclassed (“the hacker has multiple ways to evade us,” they tell Dr. Lin. “We’re playing digital whack-a-mole”), and the real-world consequences soon involve Dr. Lin in violence as he battles both his own disillusionment (“Patients used to trust doctors,” he complains. “Not anymore. Now they look up medical stuff on the internet, like they want to trap us in a gotcha moment”) and his growing suspicions of one particular colleague.

Lee knowledgeably and very effectively builds up the background tension of his novel, which stems from the frightening extent to which the mechanisms of health care—including medical records, medication orders, and treatment protocols—have become digitized and therefore vulnerable to the kind of cyber-attacks carried out by Doctor Lucifer. Dr. Lin is a dour but involving protagonist; Lee makes him more than sufficiently flawed to elicit readers’ empathy. The specter of Covid-19 (both the stress of the pandemic itself and the lingering bitterness some characters still feel over the government’s management of stimulus checks) is an intriguing element that makes an unexpected return in the narrative as the crisis’ long-term effects on Lin become more and more obvious. (“Covid-19 had kept everyone on their toes, turning healthcare workers like me into mindless drones,” he thinks. “The whole time, I never bothered to deprogram and destress.”) Lin’s eventual centrality to the plot is a bit unlikely, and the book’s pacing is often too sluggish for a narrative with the trappings of a medical thriller. Still, the drama of Lin’s personal redemption is unfailingly involving. “Redemption can occur even with the worst people,” he’s told at one point without believing it. But as the tempo of the story increases, he comes closer and closer to thinking that “perhaps there is such a thing as treatment for disease of humanity.”

A compelling if occasionally sedate thriller.

Pub Date: May 24, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 315

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2024

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MIND GAMES

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

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Roberts’ latest may move you to tears, or joy, or dread, or all three.

Every summer, John and Cora Fox visit Cora’s mother, Lucy Lannigan, in Redbud Hollow, Kentucky, leaving their children, 12-year-old Thea and 10-year-old Rem, for a two-week taste of heaven. The children love Grammie Lucy far more than John’s snooty family, which looks down on Cora. Lucy, a healer with deep Appalachian roots, loves animals, cooks the best meals, plays musical instruments, and makes soap and candles for her thriving business. Thea—who’s inherited the psychic abilities passed down through the women of Lucy’s family—has vivid magical dreams, one of which becomes a living nightmare when a psychopath robs and murders John and Cora as Thea watches helplessly. Thea’s description of the killer and her ability to see him in real time help the skeptical police catch Ray Riggs, who goes to prison for life. Although Thea and Rem go on to have a wonderful childhood with Grammie, Thea constantly wages a mental battle with Riggs, who tries to use his own psychic abilities to get into her mind. Over the years, Thea uses her imagination to become a game designer while the more business-minded Rem helps manage her career. Thea eventually builds a house near Lucy, where a newly arrived neighbor is her teen crush, singer-songwriter Tyler Brennan. Tyler has his own issues and is protective of his young son but slowly builds a loving relationship with Thea, whose silence about her abilities leads to a devastating misunderstanding. At first Thea tries to keep Riggs locked out of her mind. As her powers grow, she torments him. Finally, she realizes that she must win this battle and destroy him if she’s ever to have peace.

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781250289698

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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