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SANGUINITY POINT by Peter Palmieri


by Peter Palmieri

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-973537-23-6
Publisher: Self

A publicly disgraced doctor attempts to piece together a new career and finds himself inadvertently drawn into the world of organized crime. 

Dr. Benjamin Snow has a promising future; armed with an impressive academic pedigree, he’s a pediatric fellow at a prestigious Houston hospital. However, his dreams are suddenly shattered when Mr. Tepal, distraught over the hopeless condition of his “brain-dead child,” puts a gun to Benjamin’s head and orders that that he pull the boy off life support. Benjamin obliges and, in the aftermath, is cruelly hounded by sensationalist media who dub him “Young Doctor Death.” He loses his fellowship as a result of the negative publicity, though it’s never clear why anyone would hold him responsible under such extraordinary duress. (An aggressive police detective questions him zealously, confusingly accusing him of hoplophobia, a “morbid fear of firearms,” for not grabbing Mr. Tepal’s gun.) Benjamin is professionally banished to a job in Purgatory, Texas—Palmieri (The Art of Forgetting, 2013) displays an impressive breadth of literary talents in this medical thriller, but nuance isn’t one of them. Benjamin is bewildered by his new employer’s extraordinary financial success, especially given the poverty of its surrounding area. He becomes concerned about the relentless focus on profit at the practice and discovers that a nurse turned up dead after accusing one of its cardiologists of performing unnecessary surgeries. But when two of his colleagues suddenly die—and Benjamin stumbles on evidence of doctors’ connections to the drug trafficking underworld—he fearfully wonders what exactly he signed up for. The author packs the story with all the right ingredients: artfully crafted suspense, a morally complex protagonist, and a generous portion of action skillfully described. However, those virtues are often undermined by hokey or soap opera–ish melodrama. At one point, Benjamin’s boss, Dr. Soto-Prinz, brandishing a “Spanish conquistador dagger,” menacingly orders him to eat charcuterie, a clumsy way of revealing his despotic character. The novel remains an enjoyably easy read as long as one doesn't take it too seriously. 

A fast-paced medical thriller not entirely sabotaged by theatrically overwrought prose.