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LIFE SUPPORT by Tess Gerritsen

LIFE SUPPORT

By Tess Gerritsen

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-671-55303-8
Publisher: Pocket

Former internist Gerritsen follows Harvest (1996) with another far-fetched but effective medical thriller. Toby Harper is an idealistic emergency-room physician who has chosen to work the graveyard shift so she can care for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother. When a disoriented old man walks out of the ER and disappears, Toby finds that she cannot let the case go. She sniffs around Brant Hill, the ultra-upscale retirement village where he lived. Then another Brant Hill resident ends up in the ER with symptoms of disorientation and seizures: Toby worries that some unknown toxin at Brant Hill might be to blame. Or perhaps there's a problem with an experimental hormone protocol being used to restore youth to elderly residents? When the new patient dies, the snooty and evasive medical director for the complex denies the need for an autopsy, but willful Toby diverts the body to the medical examiner, Daniel Dvorak, who also happens to be handsome and divorced. Daniel finds that the old man died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, an extremely rare condition. When another CJD autopsy report shows up for a Brant Hill resident, Toby steps up her investigation. But she is also having trouble at home: The woman she's just hired to help care for her mother has told police that Toby has been physically abusing her parent. However beleaguered, Toby continues her detecting. A local prostitute gives birth to a strange one-eyed baby, who turns out to be a genetically altered factory of sorts, producing multiple pituitary glands. Could the Brant Hill gang be using this fetal tissue as part of their fountain-of-youth protocol, and could an unhealthy embryo have been behind the CJD outbreak? The climactic showdown hyperventilates to the point of silliness, but realism's not the point here. A satisfyingly nefarious scheme, some tentative romance, and enough medical rushing-about to satisfy hardcore ER fans add up to a lively ride.