HARMFUL INTENT by Baine Kerr

HARMFUL INTENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kerr grabs the brass ring in this first novel about a medical malpractice suit that takes every turn you can imagine, and some you can’t. “MALPRA’CTICA NO MA’S,” Peter Moss promises himself obsessively after his half-year escape from his Boulder partnership to Costa Rica. But try as he might, he can’t walk away from Terry Winter’s suit against Dr. Wallace Bondurant. It isn’t just that her trusted family physician continued to treat Terry and her daughter Emmy for three years without ever recommending treatment for the lump Terry had noticed in her breast; Moss is still smarting from his failure to get a judgment against Bondurant in an earlier lawsuit. Despite Bondurant’s status as president of the Colorado Medical Association—a position his victory over Moss had vaulted him into—the gurus at Moss’s firm green-light the suit, and it certainly looks like a winner. Moss locates a family doctor who’s happy to say that Bondurant’s oversight didn’t meet reasonable standards of care; Terry’s oncologist offers to testify; and there’s even evidence that Bondurant doctored his case notes years after the fact. So it’s no wonder the defense is pressing for a quick settlement. As everything’s falling into place, though, everything else is falling apart. Terry has come across on deposition as careless and irresponsible (“I want to ’surf the flow—,” she tells Moss); her estranged husband comes out of nowhere to jeopardize the case; free-spirited Terry disappears into the Mexican hinterlands; and Bondurant’s smirking attorney turns out to have a few trumps of his own. As in the best legal melodramas, the back-and-forth in the courtroom is so agile and relentless that it’s hard to predict which side will get the best of any given witness. And through it all, Moss, prodded by Terry’s hard-won fatalism, begins to wonder just what it is that he’s hoping to get out of the case. Kerr delivers exactly what legal-intrigue fans crave: crackling suspense up top, compelling moral problems floating beneath the surface with an iceberg’s menace.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85413-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000




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