FIRST CUT by Leah Ruth Robinson


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 Forced and furiously complicated second in a series of medical procedurals starring brainy, sexy, ``adrenaline junky'' Manhattan emergency-room physician Evelyn Sutcliffe. Starting with the same premise as in her debut novel, Blood Run (1988), Robinson has Dr. Sutcliffe fail to save a female victim of apparent male aggression. Theresa Kahr, a young German national who works in a boutique and volunteers at a neighborhood abortion clinic, is wheeled into the University Hospital ER having been bludgeoned almost to death with a pipe. Worse yet, her attacker crudely violated her with a toy doll, identifying her as one more victim of the serial killer dubbed by newspapers as Babydoll. A hectic parade follows, involving emergency-room details, capsule portraits of personnel, cops, Dr. Sutcliffe's previous and possible lovers, and Lisa Chiu, a sympathetically rendered polyracial feminist lesbian ER tech who looks upon the thirtysomething Sutcliffe as a mentor. It's no surprise, then, that Chiu is Babydoll's next victim. Sutcliffe suspects that the murders have something to do with a series of fanatical attacks on abortion- clinic staffers. Frustrated by the slow pace of the police investigation (``You've been watching too much `Murder, She Wrote,' '' an NYPD detective chides her), Sutcliffe pokes into Chiu's background, discovering that she had information about a Medicaid scam involving Sutcliffe's ER. This sets off a series of squeamish speculations as Sutcliffe wonders about the dirty secrets her colleagues might be hiding. More corpses arrive and, as if on cue, Babydoll starts stalking Sutcliffe, forcing her into the arms of lovers, confidantes, and mentors whom (almost too late) she learns that she shouldn't have trusted. Arising from a pile of red herrings, Babydoll finally dukes it out with Sutcliffe, who- -refreshingly--is horrified at the de rigueur violence such climaxes demand. Competent medical lore and compassionately detailed minor players are dampened by soap operatics and a trite, formulaic plot. (First printing of 125,000; $200,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-380-79458-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997