HARMFUL INTENT by Robin Cook
Kirkus Star

HARMFUL INTENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The best-selling ophthalmologist's tenth thriller--and his first since the fluky Sphinx (1979) to feature a villain who's not a fiendish M.D. This time, it's lawyers--malpractice lawyers particularly--who have got Cook hot under the stethoscope and have ruined the life of his new hero, Boston anesthesiologist Jeffrey Rhodes. Before chewing on lawyers, though, Cook flaunts his mastery of medical grand guignol by opening with an operating-room shocker, as birthing mom Kathy Owen and her newborn die in spasms under Jeffrey's anesthesia. Months later, Jeffrey, already found guilty of malpractice--courtesy of a greedy attorney--is found guilty of killing Kathy Owen. Jeffrey puts up his house as bail collateral and, panicking, tries to flee the country--only to be snared at the airport by burly Devlin O'Shay, a bounty hunter sicked onto Jeffrey's trail by the bailbondsman. Jeffrey escapes, running to Kelly Everson, whose husband had committed suicide when found guilty of malpractice; learning from her of uncanny parallels between her husband's case and his, Jeffrey begins to wonder: Was foul play afoot in the O.R. the night Kathy Owen died? Yes, indeed, as Cook shows via crosscut scenes of loony male nurse Trent Harding setting up two more murders: a doc-hater, Trent's been lashing out at M.D.s by adding a rare toxin to anesthesiology supplies around Boston. Playing a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game with bounty-hunter Devlin, and taking a job incognito as a hospital orderly, Jeffrey, sidekicked by Kelly, investigates and at last confronts Trent--only to see the killer shot by mob hit-men. What gives? A conspiracy of lawyers, that's what, bankrolling Trent's nasty hobby in order to cash in on the resultant malpractice suits: a conspiracy that finally leads to a crisp and exciting climax set in a Martha's Vineyard cemetery. Again, Cook manages to transmute leaden prose (""Unfortunately, the faster of the two men was gaining considerably"" is a typical chase-sequence sentence) into thriller gold plate through nonstop action, endearing heroes, nifty medical detail, and a charmingly outrageous plot. In short: Cook near his slap-happy best.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1989
Publisher: Putnam