An ambitious, flawed novel of medical fraud.
Nicole Allard lost her job in the financial sector and now works as a “medical shopper,” getting paid to visit doctor’s offices to collect data for insurance companies. Eventually, she gets a job trying to bust shady clinics bilking Medicare. Kreis, the author of eight previous novels about Detroit (The Chief, 2011, etc.), furnishes multiple subplots—an innocent doctor caught in a labyrinthine Medicare audit, a naive doctor from Africa, several struggling homeless people, criminals doing their best to outsmart the Feds, an obligatory love story or two, and more. The author understands the mechanics of the health care system, and reading about the complicated ins and outs of million dollar swindles satisfies, as does the Detroit setting. Yet, while the subplots are interesting, the novel devotes so much ink to exploring every angle of health care fraud—and those conducting, fighting against, or caught up in it—that character development and suspense suffer. When criminals kidnap Allard, the results are bizarre and devoid of terror. Allard bounces back from her assault and kidnapping with lightning speed and goes on another mission a few days later. Then she gets kidnapped again. And again. Even when the character is contemplating whether her captor might rape her, her thoughts remain two-dimensional and inauthentic: “Maybe he will let you screw your way to freedom. Yuck.” There’s an odd running wrinkle in the novel. Allard’s naked body is repeatedly ogled, groped and harassed by male “doctors.” Her response to the harassment at one point is laughable: “You know, last year Rodney and I went to St. Martin. We went to the nude beach every day, and I enjoyed it. I mean, I’m not a prude.” The problem is not whether or not this harassment happens or if this fraud is actually taking place, the problem is in the bland presentation of such rich material.
A detailed, frustrating attempt to encompass a complicated social issue.