In Van Anderson’s (The Final Push, 2013) medical thriller, an ex-surgeon is coerced into harvesting organs from unwilling patients.
It’s been a couple of years since Dr. David McBride lost his medical license due to the misdeeds of his mentor, Dr. Andrew Turnbull. Now he’s barely scraping by at a research lab while caring for his father, who has dementia, and his pregnant wife. David gets an offer from the enigmatic Mr. White regarding a plan involving buying and selling organs. The wary doctor agrees, once White threatens his wife, and he’s shocked to learn that the people who are “selling” kidneys are drugged homeless men who are anything but volunteers. As the baddies monitor him, he tries to find a way to track the organs to the implanting surgeon, unaware that the guilty party is Dr. Turnbull—the man who essentially ruined his own medical career. Although Van Anderson establishes the good and bad guys early, he presents neither side in easily definable terms. David, for example, is initially sympathetic, due to his sad family and financial situations, but some of the things he does, particularly near the story’s end, are morally questionable. Turnbull, meanwhile, may employ unsavory means, but he’s trying to fund his company, NuLife, which could eliminate transplant waiting lists. White’s motivation is almost admirable; indeed, it’s one of the few details readers learn about the man. Later, the story adds Detective Kate D’Angelo to the mix, and her presence causes tension when David is forced to run from both the cops and White’s thugs. The story incorporates David’s medical background well, such as when he professionally assesses his own injuries after villains shoot at him. The author, a former heart surgeon, weaves medical jargon expertly into the text, although readers may be unfamiliar with some unexplained terminology during David’s surgeries.
In this engaging novel, the author wields dynamic characters and intelligent prose like a skilled surgeon’s instruments.