THE FAMILY SCALPEL by Marshall Goldberg


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 The sublimely soapy adventures of three generations of the Doctors Blackmannine strong, with a tenth about to graduate from med schoolmost of them on staff at Philadelphia's Jefferson Memorial Hospital. The clan's patriarch, Dr. Frank Blackman, a retired surgeon approaching his 80th birthday, is enjoying a platonic relationship with the stylish 50-ish woman who's profiling him for the New York Times Magazine. His #1 son, Dr. Bill, is the latest family member to find his marriage (to a fashion designer who's not even a nurse) disintegrating. Bill's brother Dr. Brian is a hotshot heart surgeon who's inherited his father's remarkable talent for dialogue with a spectral presence they call the Reaper. Dr. Joshua, the black son of the Blackman cook adopted as a child by Dr. Frank, is head of infectious diseases. The third generation includes Dr. Bret, who's wondering how to tell one of his patients, an old football friend, that he's HIV- positive; Dr. Whitney, stuck in her own unhappy marriage; Dr. Jenny, holding her own out in Michigan; and Dr. Kelly, sweet on her ``uncle'' Josh. Though physician/author Goldberg (Nerve, 1981, etc.) sets up a million provocative plotlines (Will Dr. Brian move the family across town to Clark Memorial? When will the Reaper come for Dr. Frank?), the promised big scenes consistently fizzle, and a single storyKelly's chance identification of Calvin Trigg, a killer whose eye infection she examinedends up running away with the book as Trigg zeroes in on Kelly, Kelly runs off to Paris in hopes of bedding Josh, and the family gets onto Trigg. Goldberg doesn't stint on medical details, and his sprawling latest will probably take its place with other primers of diagnostic medicineand of how not to write a novel. Enough shapeless subplots and faceless characters (still popping up a page from the end) for three full seasons of General Hospital. Just imagine the sensation when they page Dr. Blackman, and the whole cast leaves.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8023-1307-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dufour
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1995