A London police surgeon becomes entangled in the case of a teenager who takes a restaurant full of people hostage.
Dr. Harry Kent divides his time between working with the London Metropolitan Police as a Force Medical Examiner—everyone calls them police surgeons though he never wields a scalpel—and as an anesthetist at John Ruskin University Hospital. He’s called out to an active scene, already an unusual situation, where a visibly ill 17-year-old named Solomon Idris has taken a group of people hostage at a fried chicken joint. His demands are strange: he wants to speak to a lawyer and have his statement broadcast on the BBC. When Harry manages to speak to him, Solomon rambles on about a girl named Keisha and how “they” killed her and never paid the consequences. Solomon’s plan predictably doesn’t go well—hostage situations rarely do when there are armed police outside—but Harry suspects there are larger forces at play. Even when Solomon arrives at the hospital, bloody but alive, one medical catastrophe after another makes Harry, and even the skeptical DI Frances Noble, suspect that Solomon may be part of a larger scheme. They discover the boy is HIV-positive, and his rantings about Keisha, who it turns out committed suicide months earlier, may not be as crazy as they first sounded. Harry, who carries the expected physical and emotional scars from his time as a medic in Afghanistan, is determined to help not only Solomon, but also those others whose voices are routinely silenced by the more powerful.
While Harry is at times an empathetic healer, McCarthy stuffs his debut with too much medical minutia, overwhelming whatever suspense there may have been.