A suspicious suicide has people in a small town accusing a doctor of murder in Mulkerin’s (The Ayatollah’s Suitcase, 2013) medical thriller.
When Maggie Lin is found dead from a gunshot to the head, Zoe Hedges tries to convince her pathologist husband, Mick, that her friend was killed by Dr. Vincent Brasco. The doctor, who runs the cancer center at Saint Anselm Hospital, had been seeing Maggie romantically. He’s also notorious for using excessive radiation treatments to generate more revenue, literally burning some of his patients. A witness puts Brasco’s car at the scene of the crime, but the hospital’s CEO seems intent on stopping Mick from performing an autopsy. Brasco then accosts the witness, which results in him being jailed and ultimately charged with murder. But his defense attorney blames someone else: Zoe, a hospice team leader who may have carried out a mercy killing. Mulkerin’s novel quickly establishes itself as a murder mystery, but the story isn’t concerned with gathering clues or accumulating suspects. Rather, it’s a story about appearances: The manner in which one presents evidence to others, it seems to say, is far more important than the evidence itself. In one of the novel’s best lines, for example, Mick explains the danger of the coroner’s announcing the death as a suicide: “The public pins its opinion on the first theory it hears.” This narrative approach gives the plot an intense edge; throughout most of the book, Mick can’t be sure whether his wife is guilty or not, and despite Brasco’s undeniably shady persona, his culpability is largely conjecture. The author focuses on curious, enigmatic elements at times, such as a strange tattoo on Maggie’s backside, but he amps up the suspense when Mick and Zoe receive threatening letters. He also offers engrossing secondary characters, such as Sergei, a radiologist with Asperger’s syndrome.
A tenacious, well-constructed mystery/thriller.