In an intriguing but uneven debut thriller framed around family secrets and a passionate love affair, a medical researcher hits a disturbing roadblock when he requests permission to test his potentially groundbreaking cure for dementia on human subjects.
Self-absorbed and womanizing, Dr. Lloyd Copeland has gotten his dementia research to a crucial stage. Success with lab animals has led to the next step: approval for human testing. Lloyd is shocked when the review board at his medical facility questions the validity of his research and an autopsy report on a test mouse indicates fatal side effects. The originator of the report proves elusive, and signs begin pointing to sabotage. Complicating the plot—and the story’s continuity and consistency—is Erin, a beautiful medical ethicist who sits on the review board. Unfortunately, a jarring sophomoric tone in Lloyd’s personal and sexual relationships weakens the narrative. For instance, after a doctor friend tosses Erin and Lloyd into his backyard pool, Erin “casually” takes off her wet clothes, continues the visit in her bra and panties, and relishes “the way she was able to fluster” Lloyd. Characters repeatedly “smirk” and “pout.” Palmieri—a practicing physician—succeeds most strongly in rendering realistic medical settings and in his evocations of time and place: “He…picked up the Styrofoam cup and sat down in a booth of white Formica, chipped and scratched with countless initials, stained with cigarette burns.” Though some descriptive phrases create an unintentionally comical effect—“He grinned at her with clenched teeth as he gaped in those bottomless emerald eyes”—peripheral characters in particular come into the plot with deft brush strokes: At a Little League game, the “air was filled with the screams of overzealous parents whose voices carried like the jeers of huffy grackles. A red headed boy in the outfield held up his mitt to shade his eyes as he craned his neck back to look at the contrails of a high flying sic jet.” With another round of editing, revelations concerning lethal machinations and the family secret that propels Lloyd’s journey toward personal and professional redemption could have packed significant punch.
An observant medical thriller with intriguing potential.