A series of mishaps and an accidental death at a Pennsylvania hospital raise suspicions of sabotage in the author’s debut medical thriller.
Doctors in the anesthesia department at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital are worried about losing their jobs in an impending merger, so it doesn’t bode well when a patient dies soon after anesthesia is administered. Dr. Doug Landry and others are unaware that someone in their department is intentionally setting up the anesthesiologists for failure in a series of desperate acts that will ultimately lead to outright murder. Benedict’s novel is a mystery story rife with suspense: A killer, whose identity is often concealed, creeps into dark operating rooms; med student Rusty, searching for his elusive past, finds his way to Mercy; and a patient awakens in the midst of surgery, unable to move but feeling every agonizing cut. There’s a hefty number of subplots that tend to be relevant only for individual characters (though some are linked to the nefarious goings-on later in the narrative) and feature details that readers may associate with hospital dramas on television: Doug’s temptation to stray from his marriage vows with a flirtatious hospital employee; sympathetic Dr. Mike Carlucci recalling patients he’s lost and trying not to succumb to the pressures of the job; plus Rusty’s training and the threat of a suit against the hospital. But perpetually shifting perspectives and a focus on the darker side of medical care—Doug tells Rusty how easily anesthesia, inadvertently or not, can become lethal—ensure that the various plots are less sentimental and more in tune with the murderous saboteur. Twists and turns abound as the story progresses, and though they can be a bit predictable, they hit a crescendo in a scene of utter ferocity that’s violent and intense. Benedict rounds out his novel with hospital humor that’s nicely subdued, as when a scrub nurse who thinks she’s being watched is so unsettled that she has an acute condition of cutis anserina—the medical term for goose bumps.
Like a soap opera on fast-forward—a speedy plot, none of the sappy melodrama and all the juicy morsels intact.