Skeletons leap from a San Francisco HMO’s closet after its CEO is struck by a hit-and-run driver and dies in his company’s own hospital: Lescroart’s latest look at the sociology of murder.
Before you start cheering the ironic aptness of Tim Markham’s death, consider some of the complications. The unidentified jogger was so badly injured at the accident scene that the ambulance driver considered taking him to County Hospital lest Parnassus Health’s cost-conscious Portola Hospital stabilize him and then ship him over to County anyway. Shortly after Markham checks out, his wife Carla, their three teenagers, and the family dog are shot to death in a transparently phony murder-suicide. Since Markham had been sleeping with Ann Kensing, her husband Eric, a Parnassus staff physician, leaps to the top of Lt. Abe Glitsky’s suspect list. And when Glitsky’s best friend Dismas Hardy, the lawyer Eric’s retained to dispel the gathering clouds of suspicion, hears that Markham was murdered as well by a lethal injection of potassium, he starts seriously digging into Parnassus’ finances. The results would gratify the most fervid HMO–basher. Parnassus, who insures the city’s municipal employees, had just stuck the mayor’s office with a whopping $13 million bill for additional services rendered over the past two years—a bill the city is sharply disputing, though it can’t afford to sue Parnassus out of business. Now there are whispers of kickbacks for listing less-than-effective generic substitute drugs in the corporation’s formulary, pending malpractice actions over a string of deaths in Portola’s Intensive Care Unit, and the distinct possibility that a dozen of those deaths, maybe more, involved care-giving more baleful than careless.
A depressingly thorough tour of managed-care malfeasance that’s a whistleblower’s pipe dream—though the skullduggery is so complete, so densely imagined, and so lacking in drama that Hardy and Glitsky (The Hearing, p. 132, etc.) come up short on both mystery and suspense.