In this debut drama, a physician chronicles the events that led him and several others to commit a transgression that has since haunted him.
Putting a gun in his mouth is practically a morning routine for Dr. J.D. Brewster. Thirty-five years ago, in 1982, Brewster was part of what he’s deemed a “great sin,” which has driven him to the brink of suicide. He soon learns that his friend Cheryl Mammon is terminally ill. She and Brewster are two of the five co-conspirators involved in the ’82 crime; the remaining three are dead. That leaves Brewster to document the last two years of his medical school training in the early ’80s—a confession of sorts. By 1980, he was in the midst of a six-year M.D./Ph.D. dual-training program at Texas’ Gulf Coast College of Medicine. His key interest was looking for an effective hepatitis B vaccine with research professor Dr. Yeshua Rabbi. Sadly, someone at the college was determined to “torpedo” the two researchers’ work. It was merely one of the obstacles Brewster faced as he moved closer to the unfortunate incident that will burden him for decades. As this is the start of a trilogy, it’s perhaps not surprising that Brewster’s account gets nowhere near the much-teased crime. Hill’s intelligent story is filled with medical terminology that’s generally easy to understand, especially with an obliging glossary at the novel’s end. But the tale is likewise engrossing: The dialogue-laden narrative pushes the plot forward while aptly establishing characters. Prisoner/hospital patient E. Rockholder, for example, earns his label of “dirtbag,” as he “cheerfully recalled the vehicular homicide he had committed.” Readers may be disappointed by the ending, which is devoid of revelations. Along with the ’82 occurrence, other past events are left unexplained, from Brewster’s mysteriously vanishing mentor to the loss of his sole testicle, a trauma that somehow renders him “an overt racist.”
Measured but absorbing medical tale with lingering questions for sequels to answer.