THE HEALER by Leonard Levitt
Kirkus Star


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A gripping study of a medical sociopath who incidentally murdered his wife. One evening in 1975, Dr. Charles Friedgood of Kensington, Long Island, pinned his wife to their bed, drove a syringe filled with a lethal dose of Demerol into her armpit and other parts of her body, waited for her to die, then lay down beside her and went blithely to sleep for the night. In the morning the maid fixed his grapefruit and he went to work. At one p.m. the maid found that Sophie Friedgood was dead and phoned the doctor. When Dr. Friedgood got home, he called the funeral home, signed his wife's death certificate, and had her body shipped out of state for a quick burial. The Friedgoods had six adult children (four daughters, two sons) who arrived for the funeral--which was interrupted by an alert police chief's demand for an autopsy--and then began involving themselves in the legal investigation. Meanwhile, Dr. Friedgood was observing the small-town coroner at Sophie's autopsy and trying to account for the signs of foul play that were turning up. When the police got a search warrant and fine-combed the Friedgood household, the doctor's lawyer-daughter Esther hid the syringe and Demerol bottle for her father (later he'd say that his wife had become a drug addict). And it wasn't until he looted his wife's safe-deposit boxes of $600,000 and attempted to flee to his mistress in Denmark that he was arrested. All this--the murder case--is only the icing on the portrait of Friedgood, a liar of such resourcefulness and a surgeon of such tragic incompetence that mere murder falls below his capacity for bungling and butchery. This was a doctor who was fired by hospital after hospital until he was working in the worst dens in Brooklyn; and whose lack of ability was so staggering that his fellow-doctors refused to reveal it to the world. The reader reels from botch to botch, from lie to lie, while Friedgood's poor-folks patients only revere this ten-thumbed ""healer"" and cry out at his charisma. The story of a colossus of malpractice, without much explanation of how he got that way--but riveting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Viking