In Wilder’s debut novel, a respected Houston cardiologist is convicted of killing her mother with an unapproved drug, but some begin to question whether she’s actually guilty of the crime.
Dr. Lindsey McCall successfully modifies a digitalis drug that she hopes will save the lives of patients with heart failure, including her own mother. But when Ann McCall dies, Houston police receive an anonymous tip claiming that Lindsey used the drug to kill her. Officials exhume the body, find the unapproved medication in her system, and try Lindsey for murder. She’s convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. The story draws the attention of newspaper reporter Kate Townsend, who plans an investigative series titled “Murder in the Texas Medical Center.” During her research, she’s disturbed to learn that Lindsey’s older sister, a nurse named Paula Livingston, testified against her and is pleased that Lindsey’s in Huntsville Prison. The new chief warden, Rich Jansen, also finds himself interested in Lindsey’s case—and in her. The author offers a solid premise and a fair amount of suspense, and some of her characters—particularly Jansen and Lindsey’s friend Julie—are quite well-drawn. Unfortunately, these good points are overshadowed by the fact that many sentences are awkward and amateurish, such as, “His curiosity had been piqued by these last remarks of Lindsey about her family.” The author’s use of stiff, academic language is another weakness; for example, Lindsey is said to have “persuaded her chemistry and biology teachers to support her determination to alter the digitalis molecule in ways that would optimize its inotropic or strengthening effects on the heart.” The reporter’s subplot seems particularly outlandish, as her poorly written articles win not one, but three Pulitzer Prizes. The novel could also have used a stronger copy edit to catch spelling errors (“tenants” instead of “tenets,” “coy” instead of “koi”).
A promising storyline that falls victim to disappointing writing and editing.