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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Sisterhood


***½ The Sisterhood by Michael Palmer. Medical thriller.









I'm not really sure how this got into my TBR pile. I suspect it was the time I ordered about a dozen books from the same seller on Half.com and they sent me several extras as a bonus.

Dr. David Palmer is just starting to get his life back together. After the death of his wife and daughter, he'd become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now he's clean and sober, but it's an uphill battle to recover his former status as a surgeon. So he's overjoyed when a well-respected surgeon asks him to cover his patients for a long weekend.

Unfortunately, one of those patients is a terminally ill woman who's in a lot of pain, but the surgeon is determined to use every medical resource available to keep her alive. He and David have words about it, and when the woman dies and the autopsy determines it was murder, David is the prime suspect.

The woman was given a fatal dose of morphine by Christine Beall, a dedicated nurse who's part of the Sisterhood--nurses who practice euthanasia out of compassion.

But playing god tends to go to one's head, and the Sisterhood is ready to frame David for the murder, and to go even further if necessary to protect itself.

Is it just me, or is a conspiracy of doctors &/or nurses killing people the plot of every medical thriller out there? It's not my genre (you can tell, because I don't have a tag for it), possibly because I worked in a hospital for 2 1/2 years, although it tended to be the genre of choice for a lot of the nurses I knew. Maybe I hadn't worked there long enough to find the idea tempting. (Not in a serious way--sheesh.) But of the few I've read, it seems like they've mostly been about nurses killing people, and starting out with euthanasia.

Okay, enough of that. I'm probably wrong, because I haven't read enough to know. But this book doesn't convince me to check out more of the genre.

The plot wasn't my main objection anyway. Mostly, I felt it was overcomplicated. Which isn't a problem if all the threads come together, but that wasn't really the case here. In addition to the main plot outlined above, there was David's relationship to a reporter; an offshoot of the Sisterhood called the Garden, which are assassins for hire; and there's a romance between David and Christine.

Unfortunately, the Garden's murders never really go anywhere (though this might be the subject of a sequel--there is a cliffhanger at the end); the relationship with the reporter fizzles without real closure; and the romance between David and Christine feels forced. There are also secondary characters who are underutilized--for example, David's mobster friend and the police detective in charge of the case; and an overabundance of names that are referred to as if they'd been a larger part of the story than they had been. All of which makes me wonder if The Sisterhood had been the victim of a hatchet editing job.

On the positive side, it was suspenseful, and David was a sympathetic protagonist. He really got everything thrown at him, poor guy.

I hate to say this, since it took me three days to read this 342-page book, but I think I'd have enjoyed it more if it had been longer.

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