A cozy debut medical mystery with more heart than guts.
Triolo offers a comfortably paced tale about a series of mysterious deaths in the Critical Care Unit at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. A diverse group of medical professionals forms an unofficial team to investigate, but they face numerous obstacles, including a litigation-averse hospital administration more concerned about planning a media strategy than looking into possible homicides. Still, the group perseveres, drawing on each member’s area of expertise to try to determine the causes of the unexpected deaths and prevent further tragedies. Disappointingly, the novel reveals the killer’s identity, motive and job assignment (but not his name) almost immediately, undercutting the suspense and robbing the conclusion of impact. The killer’s motive is somewhat thin and fails to deepen over the course of the book: He’s so angry for what he perceives as substandard medical care for his combat injuries that he seeks revenge by killing... patients? He later fixates on members of the medical team, but his actions don’t seem to fit his avowed motivations. But although Triolo stumbles with her villain, she shines when portraying other characters, providing deep depictions of her medical heroes and poignant vignettes about particular patients. The author’s attention to character development is reflected in the quality of the dialogue, which sounds natural and authentic throughout, enlivening a story with an otherwise predictable plot. Her main character, Santos Rosa, stands out: a dedicated nurse, with little time for socializing, who makes space in her life for an endearingly chaste relationship with fellow nurse Patrick Sullivan. The quick, evocative patient portraits will make readers emotionally invested in their stories’ outcomes.
A mystery that may not fully satisfy genre fans, but Triolo’s deft characterizations make her an author to watch.