The Last Surgeon, Michael Palmer, St. Martin's, $26.99.
Michael Palmer has long been one of my favorite guilty pleasures. While his books are all "different", that's kind of like saying all of Dick Francis' books are different. Though the central character may have a different name and there's a different situation, the essential, iron clad formula—in the case of both Palmer and Francis—remains the same. In Palmer's case the central character, like Palmer himself, is usually a doctor, which adds lots of verisimilitude to the medical details and even to the details of hospital protocols and procedures that are inevitably a part of any Palmer novel. There's also usually an "unexpected" romance, though for any regular Palmer afficionado, the "unexpected" romance can easily be spotted. When the female I'd selected in this outing seemed briefly interested in one of the other male characters in the book, I knew that character must then be a dangerous red herring.
None of this adherence to formula makes any of the books less enjoyable, because Palmer is also a dab hand at both narrative and suspense. While you're reading one of his books, the rest of the world is shut out for a bit. In this outing, a surgeon with PTSD, Dr. Nick Garrity, is trying to deal with his condition while helping the homeless in a roving medical van that hits all the worst parts of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Meanwhile, a nurse, Jillian Coates, has lost her sister in an apparent suicide. She's sure it isn't one, and some of the clues she uncovers lead her to Nick.
Meanwhile, relentlessly working behind the scenes is killer Franz Koller, master of the "non-kill". Every hit he does looks like a plausible accident, but as Nick and Jillian get closer to the truth, Koller gets closer to his desire to kill them both. Your investment in Jillian's hunt for her sister's killer, and in Nick's search for a fellow vanished vet, your growing affection for them and their increasing danger, makes the suspense relentless and the book impossible to put down. Cast aside a Palmer read at your own risk.
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