CRITICAL CONDITIONS by Stephen White

CRITICAL CONDITIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Boulder psychologist Alan Gregory confronts a hapless family's mismanaged-care nightmare, in White's overstuffed sixth thriller. The toddler of Alan's newly transplanted colleague, John Trent, has been stricken with a rare strain of viral myocarditis for which MedExcel, the family's HMO, refuses the only available treatment as too experimental; meanwhile, his wife, TV news personality Brenda Strait, is being harassed by threats and vandalism. As their daughter Charley lies dying for lack of funds, Trent wonders how much worse things could get. Here's how much: Brenda's daughter Merritt, 15, tries to kill herself, gets dragged back to life refusing to speak, and turns out to be hiding a handgun and a bloody outfit that tie her to the murder of Dr. Edward Robilio, the founder and chairman of MedExcel. Assigned to Merritt's case, Alan finds crippling new connections among the characters at every turn. His cop friend Sam Purdy is the brother-in-law Brenda's been feuding with for years. Dr. Terence Gusman, who chairs the medical exam review board at MedExcel, is the brother of a woman fatally traumatized by Brenda's hard-nosed reporting. Even Alan's urologist neighbor Adrienne, who's been sleeping with the Trent/Strait's lawyer, thinks she prefers the lawyer's wife. As he rolls like a fifth wheel from one crime scene to the next and struggles to get his mute patient to open up--even after she starts to talk, her shocking, predictable revelations are delayed by a series of shameless ploys--Alan goggles at the unholy network of lovers, codependents, and betrayers. The result is that White (Remote Control, 1997, etc.) loses his initial focus on the indictment of uncaring HMOs; by the time you stumble to the center of this labyrinth, you're amazed that the medical community can lift a finger to help this dysfunctional community.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1998
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dutton