The patients in a medical student’s psychiatry rotation have a variety of diagnoses, some more dangerous than others, in this thriller.
Having completed one third-year medical school clinical rotation in surgery, Dr. Annabel Tilson will next be seeing patients in the psych ward. There are certainly more risks involved, as attending physician, Dr. Selina Keeton, quickly points out. The students, for one, should avoid the common practice of shaking the patient’s hand when entering the room. Annabel’s first patient is Victor Blake, a 23-year-old man cops picked up after he scared people at a movie theater, screaming about nonexistent snakes on the screen. Fortunately, not everyone is as intimidating as Victor, a paranoid schizophrenic. Annabel and her fellow student/pal Bob Palmer see people with all sorts of afflictions, from depressed, suicidal Eugene Wells to precariously thin, anorexic teenager Lillie Carter. Meanwhile, Annabel, still hung up on a man who didn’t reciprocate her romantic feelings, opts for “sexual flings” courtesy of dating app Findar. Though typically cautious when meeting her dates (a public place is ideal), Annabel may get herself in trouble by being a little less prudent. Back at the hospital, a recently discharged patient, once off prescribed meds, could very well turn into an unmitigated menace. Physician and author Ebel’s (Dead Still, 2016, etc.) expertise in the medical field is unmistakable: the story’s many patient cases are diverse and enthralling. Haley Morris, for example, another teen girl like Lillie, has an entirely different problem: she may be contemplating suicide from merciless cyberbullying. At the same time, the relationship between Annabel and Bob is surprisingly multilayered. The two have been close friends since they were on the surgery rotation together. But though it’s clear Annabel wants nothing more than friendship, she’s annoyed by and perhaps jealous of Bob spending time with med student Karla Weaver. There are a few jolts, like patients taking sudden turns for the worse. The final act, however, in which one individual could potentially become violent, happens so late in the story that there’s no room for suspense to generate before the novel ends.
At its best as a drama, with a protagonist whose distressing professional and personal lives in and out of the hospital produce a gripping tale.