Email this review


Patients at Chicago's Austin Flint Medical Center are dying, horribly, of strychnine poisoning--seemingly a series of mercy killings, since all but one of the victims (an unpopular staff doctor) were terminally ill. Furthermore, another unpopular staff doctor is mysteriously sick, getting worse all the time. Sounds like Robin Cook medico-suspense--or a psycho-killer thriller? Well, sort of: there are villains at work here (with implausible motives, as it turns out). But thriller-fans will have to look elsewhere for excitement, because Klawans, a neurologist, has fallen into the amateur-first-novelist trap: he seems determined to pack everything he knows or thinks into this thinly plotted tale--through his hero, neurologist Paul Richardson. Thus, when not sleuthing or doing bungarotoxin research, Dr. Richardson muses on baseball trivia, on classical music, on movies and books. In scenes with medical students, he tells anecdotes, recites the histories of diseases, shows off his Holmesian deductive powers, and works up a dozen cases unrelated to the suspense-plot. (""What causes bilateral calcification of the basal ganglia, Linda?"") He even manages, digressing wildly, to mention a paper in the Transactions of the American Neurological Association by a certain Dr. Klawans. And all this self-indulgence is a pity--since Klawans displays a solid narrative style, with appealing portraits of residents and students, whenever Dr. Richardson (a.k.a. Klawans) isn't showing off. So: too chattily discursive to hold most suspense readers (who'll recognize the predictable solution as the ABC Murders device yet again); but perhaps an agreeably mixed doctor's-bag for hard-core medi-book readers--who might enjoy Dr. K.'s show-and-tell neurology lectures well enough to disregard the weak mystery and the preening asides.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
Publisher: Contemporary