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Posts Tagged ‘medical thriller’


Ever since seeing the movie Coma back in the 80s, and learning about Cook’s writing, I’ve become sort of a closet fan of his medical thrillers. Of course, the other reason for me watching Coma was that I had a major crush on Geneviève Bujold (feel free to Google/IMDB her). Yes, I know some may say “but Evil Parrot she was an older woman”. To which I would reply “And ….?”. But enough about my … um, fascinations and curiosities, and let’s get on with the blooming book review … yeah?

It has been awhile since I’ve had my Robin Cook fix … yes, man cannot live by horror, espionage and crime alone. Sometimes I need a reason to be potentially scared shitless about hospitals and doctors and Charlatans did not disappoint (in a good way … that is).

The book opens with Bruce Vincent, a security administrator, at Boston Memorial Hospital (BMH) preparing for what should be a walk-in-the-park hernia surgery. Even better was that the star surgeon, a Dr. William Mason, had agreed to do it … so, yes, what could possibly go wrong. A word about Dr. Mason: older chap, narcissistic, loves to flirt (and make inappropriate advances to the younger female staff), never owns up to his mess ups, a wee bit chubby, and yes … drives a red Ferrari. Did I mention that he is the star surgeon of BMH? Somewhere along the line, something goes wrong in the surgery of Bruce Vincent and then we meet Dr. Noah Rothauser and Dr. Ava London (anesthesiologist). Needless to say that despite all efforts, Bruce Vincent’s surgery is ill-fated (keep in mind that this is not much of a spoiler since it all happens in the first chapter). And of course, the blame throwing begin. Dr. Mason blames Dr. London for messing up the anesthesia and even questions Rothauser’s intervention techniques during this crisis. On top of that, Dr. Rothauser, who is the chief resident, has to navigate this situation and the investigation into it. It then gets worse when more patients start dying and the anesthesiologist involved just happens to be the enigmatic Dr. London. With Dr, Mason breathing down their backs with especially a fiery red target on Ava’s, Noah and Ava decides to come together to investigate what’s really behind these sudden yet coincidental deaths. Did I mention that Ava had rebuffed many of Dr. Mason’s inappropriate advances in the past? Yes, Dr. Mason possibly has political career in sight (I guess I did go there … too real for comfort …oh well). Working together brings Noah and Ava really, really close as they find themselves indulging in a bit of the old in-out-in-out (yes, even Stevie Wonder on a dark moonless night could have seen that). Needless to say, word gets around and Dr. Mason, being scorned and jealous, turns the heat up on the duo. Meanwhile, there are two ex-military mercenaries driving around the country killing Internet trolls (though that doesn’t sound so bad considering the acidic atmosphere of social media these days). What have they to do with the story? I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book. To complicate things even further, the more time Noah spends with Ava, the more puzzled he becomes: a gorgeous, athletic-toned woman that spends most of her free time on social media with multiple avatars than she would with actual people. And then there are those times when Ava would simply just take off on a “consulting” trip to some state. Aye, red flags abound.
Online avatars, social media, murderous mercenaries, megalomaniacal doctors and a rising body count both inside and outside BMH makes Charlatans a riveting read as we travel down a vicious rabbit hole. In strange way Cook seems to educate while entertain readers about the medical world and its possibilities and its dark sides … as does most of his books. This spine-tingling medical thriller will force you skim the pages towards the twisted end. And most of all, it’ll probably make you look closely at what’s framed on your doctor’s wall.

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robin_cook_host_cvr

I can’t help it, but I love having my wits scared out of me … one way or another. Whether it’s things that go bump in the night (excluding my neighbors extra-curricular activities at 1AM in the bloody morning), or being around medical institutions and deserted buildings (don’t ask). Ever since seeing Coma in the 80s with Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold (I had a serious crush on Bujold), I was pretty much drawn into the world of Robin Cook. So when this strange, ominous cover showed up in my stacks (feel free to look at it … pretty creepy isn’t it), needless to say, I lost all will power and gave into my urges. So here we are. Enough with the niceties and other such bollocks … and let’s get on with the bleedy review … shall we?

Lynn Pierce is an up and rising medical student completing her residency at the South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University. She lives with a cat and an adoring boyfriend, Carl Vandermeer (a lawyer). Life seems perfect and all’s sunny in her life … until a knee injury puts Carl under the knife. Sounds simple, routine. Bloody hell, you might say, it is knee surgery for crying out loud. So it seems, but this is a Robin Cook novel where the most simple thing can take a turn for the worst faster than Kanye West’s mood changes. So yes, needless to say, everything goes horribly wrong and Carl is placed into a medical-induced coma. To make things worse, Lynn discovers the truth to a special “trip”, that she and Carl were to take in the near future, in his desk drawer at home: an engagement ring (possibly from Jared’s …hence this was really serious). Considering that her future fiancée was in great health and the fact that a simple knee surgery should not have bollocksed up to such epic proportions, Lynn decides to really investigate further. Joining her in her quest is Michael Pender, her academic, Afro-American “twin”, that is very resourceful and intelligent as he is an occasional wiseass. And yes, the “twin” thing is an inside joke by their peers, since they’ve been exclusive study partners since the beginning of their schooling at Mason-Dixon University. The intrigue is ratcheted up when the doctors decide to move Carl into a building called the Shapiro Institute: a windowless building, shrouded in secrecy and with more security that would make most national security agencies green with envy. As the duo digs further, they encounter an Scandinavian ice queen doctor, a Russian pharmaceutical billionaire, ex-Spetsnaz-turned-mafioso assassins, and a very dark, twisted side to the world of medical science (I truly hope doesn’t exist in this country). Oh bloody hell, you might say at just the mere mention of those little ditties. Yeah. Now you’re probably wondering what could be so dark and twisted? Sorry mates, but I’m not going to a do tosser move and vomit out that bit of detail. But it is enough to give you a couple sleepless nights.
Yes, Cook occasionally spits out a bit of medical jargon that would make most folks eyes glaze over or cause intra-cranial bleeding, but it is dished out in tolerable doses and spread out to accommodate most of us non-medicals out there. Lynn will, sometimes, get on your nerve as she constantly and impulsively dash off into situations where most angels fear to tread, as she drags poor Michael (who seemingly is the one with a level head amongst the two) along with her into her nerve-wracking escapades. Think of the one person, in horror movies, that always feel the need to run into every dark basement or attic … just because. There is no lack of intrigue or suspense in Host which is very reminiscent of Coma … which drives you to that OMG moment as you tumble into that dark and twisted conclusion that, for some, just might result in some sleepless nights. And if per chance you are about to have knee surgery, then be a good luv and … yeah … pass this one by.

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cellcookcover

George Wilson, MD, is a senior radiology resident in a major L.A. hospital. A promising future and a loving fiancée, George’s future is so bright that he’s got to wear shades (oh Timbuk 3, we need you chaps back on the radio). And then one morning, George awakens with a dead fiancée in his bed … seemingly due to Type 1 diabetic complications. Several months later whilst going through the grieving process, George attends a seminar hosted by Amalgamated Healthcare, where he runs into an old flame (Paula Stonebrenner) and the revelation of a new medical breakthrough in the form of a smartphone app called iDoc. A convergence of informational technology, nanotechnology and genomics, the iDoc is poised to be quite the thing to supplement the Affordable Care Act where virtual digitized doctors monitor and offer medical advice without the inconvenience of waiting in line at the local hospital or clinic. Now I know what you’re thinking: a health insurance company coming up with a solution to “help” the healthcare system. Seriously, that alone is some really good medical fiction right there. But alas, here it is. Soon George discovers that there are many people using iDoc as beta testers. Among them was his late fiancée (hmmm, you say). And just when the uneasiness of being replaced with Siri, MD, was beginning to arise in George, many of the beta testers started dying on him which ranges from a friendly neighbour to several patients he’s actually worked with. Still not impressed or intrigued? Oh yes, did I forget to mention that most of these victims were either terminal or potential terminal cases. Bloody hell, you’re saying about now … and you’re in good company. As George decides to investigate iDoc (the accidental death panel known as Siri) and Amalgamated Health, he finds himself entrenched in a sinister game of cat and mouse where his sleuthing threatens Amalgamated’s bottom line (aye, that is always a good thing) and George stands to lose more than just his residency or sanity.
Cook’s Cell is a neck-breaking thrill ride down a dark, twisting mountainside on a very thin road … with the lights off. It grips you by the throat all the way to the mind-blowing end … and yes, it will blow your mind. And if anything, it’ll make you appreciate those long waits at your local clinic as you thumb through old People magazines or endure Judge Judy or the Price is Right on a crappy telly … over some PHd enhanced Siri that simply wants to kill you. Just saying mates.

P.S. Siri is not the actual virtual avatar that is used in the book. I just used her because … well … she makes such a great target. Tee hee.

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rcooknano

I am fascinated with the world of nanotechnology. The concept of making robots so small on a molecular level that could (one day) swim around your blood stream eating cancers and tumors or even used to generate organs from a vat of organic chemicals … fascinates me immensely. So when I saw the Nano by Robin Cook, it was literary Christmas times two (yes, I need to get out more).

Interestingly enough, Pia Grazdani returns. You, know the chick from Death Benefits (just a few posts down, mates) with the scary baggage. After surviving some “stuff” (sorry but I don’t intend to ruin it for those that haven’t read Benefits as yet) in NYC, she takes some time away from her studies and finds herself in the employ of Nano; a company that is doing pioneering research in the field of nanotechnology and headed by the charismatic, driven Zachary Berman. Nestled at the foothills of the Rockies (in Colorado), with a magnificent campus, Nano is a seemingly Pia’s ideal workplace. Did I that, somehow, Mr. Berman has somewhat tapped into unknown source of “unlimited funding”? Well, I guess I just did. During a jog through the sprawling campus, Pia encounters a fallen “employee” that has seemingly succumbed to a severe seizure. When the man suddenly recovers from (let’s just say … um … ) death and then whisked away from hospital by special Nano staff to a highly restricted area of the Nano campus, a sea of red flags are raised in Pia’s mind about the situation. As Pia struggles to unearth the secrets of Nano, she discovery reveals a Pandora’s box of vileness that shatters the scientific utopia of Nano: human experiments. And yes, there is no such thing as “unlimited funding” and if there is … be careful of the hosts for they want something even more. To make things worse, Mr. Berman has plans for Ms. Grazdani that have more to do with silk and satin sheets and other bits of naughtiness rather than late night discussions of the latest techniques of molecular production.
As Pia is drawn to the terrifying truth, we find more twists than a DNA helix where everyone aren’t what they seem and the limits that some are willing to go for the sake of profitable medical technologies … even if it involves murder.

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deathbenefit

Several months ago I watched the remake of Coma on DVD. Though the storyline was slightly changed from the original (from the 80s) that starred Micheal Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, it was still watchable since it was great to see Geena Davis still looking saucy as ever. But back in the 80s it was Genevieve Bujold that had my attention since I was your typical hormonal teen and I had scorching crush on her. Oh sweet Canada. Yes, she may be a bit older, but I doubt whether my feelings have changed. Um … a bit much information there … and I’ve already detoured. Focus … and now we’re back. I came across Death Benefit in the stacks and since there was Robin Cooks name on it I was compelled to give it solid perusing.
Pia Grazdiani is not your typical medical student since she comes with a lot of baggage, and not the type found in overpriced shitty Coach designer types: her estranged father is a VIP in the Albanian mafia; she witnessed her mother’s mother at six years old; she was sexually molested by an uncle; she’s passed through more foster homes than extinct joint at a reggae concert; and she’s got some serious trust issues with authority figures. Yet, despite it all, she manages to become a very smart and focused medical student and PhD candidate that works under the equally feared and neurotic Dr. Rothman who is not only her mentor but is pioneer in groundbreaking medical research. The sort of research that could turn the medical world upside down … in a good way … but at the same time may put some folks out of business. When Dr. Rothman and his assistant, Dr. Yamamoto, become violently ill and within 48 hours is dead, on the surface it is nothing more than an accidental contamination, but as Pia digs deeper what she finds something even more sinister. The kind of stuff that could possibly get her killed. Oh, conspiracy you say? Well, I’m not bloody telling. Though Death Benefit at times comes across like medical science lecture, Cook does his earnest best to make it easily digestable for those (unlike myself) that are not so scientifically inclined. And yes, this aspect is kept to a delightful minimum. Filled with intrigue and surprising twists that’ll keep you anxious to get to the next page, Death Benefit is a great medical thriller that’ll keep you riveted to your seat as you mentally try to override all pertinent body functions … and it’ll probably scare you about ever getting life insurance. The same way Coma scared the living shit out of me about ever getting anesthesia for any operation. Then again, I wouldn’t mind being operated on by Genevieve Bujold or Geena Davis … though I ‘d prefer to be awake for that. A bit too … much? Bad images in your mind? So dreadfully sorry.

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