Robin Cook --- Acceptable Risk & Contagion
Pan Pbk (0 330 343338 6) £5.99 & MacMillan (0 333 66279 2) £16.99
The medical thriller is a genre which has a large following and Robin Cook is certainly the leader in this field. In his books he chooses up to the minute medical issues on which to hang his plots . In Acceptable Risk the issue is the use of the new and controversial mood / personality -altering drugs. Kimberley Stewart is determined to delve into the past and discover more about her ancestor Elizabeth who was hanged as a witch in Salem in the seventeenth century. In her investigation she is accompanied by her new scientist boy friend, Edward Armstrong, who discovers a bacterial mould and sets about producing a drug which he thinks will be an even bigger hit than Prozac. He is willing to take, it seems, rather more than an "acceptable risk" in pursuit of the wealth that he believes this new drug will bring.
The story is a bit too "gothic" for me in its setting - present day Salem with all its connections with the witch trials - a gloomy, rambling castle, the disturbance of a grave , strange nightly happenings with morning appearances of overturned dustbins and corpses of mutilated animals. I was, however, interested in the 17th century documents which Kim finds and the wonderful names of the Puritan gentlemen who were communicating with each other about Elizabeths supposed status as a witch. And Cooks main thread regarding the connection between witchcraft and the new drug is very clever. The eventual outcome of the investigation is totally unexpected and yet provides a plausible explanation for the sad fate of Elizabeth, the Salem Witch.
Contagion is probably, I would say, Cooks best yet. This time the issue is the danger in the takeover of small and independent medical and pharmaceutical practitioners by the medical giants who control hospitals and clinics and are ruthless in the pursuit of profit. The enormous sums of money spent on advertising by the rival companies , money which should be put into patient care, is also an issue on which the plot is hung. His hero, Dr John Stapleton, is trying to build a new life following the tragic deaths of his wife and two daughters and the loss of his ophthalmology practice because of the actions of the huge health-care conglomerate, Americare. He retrains in forensic pathology and unwittingly , through his job, becomes involved in an investigation into the outbreak of several almost unbelievable coincidences of outbreaks of different virulent diseases in the same hospital. Jack is treading on dangerous ground when his suspicions of the existence of a terrible and lethal conspiracy involving the spread of the disease seem to be confirmed.
New York is the setting. Jack , taking a lot of chances, lives downtown, almost in Harlem, cycles a hair raising route to work through the city and for relaxation likes to hang around waiting to be chosen for a turn in the basketball team with the neighbourhood blacks. This connection stands him in good stead when the going gets rough.
There is some romantic interest and the question of which of two glamorous and intelligent females he is going to opt for causes some suspense. Certainly a "thriller" as Jack keeps the trail going, managing to stay one step ahead of disaster. Plenty of excitement and medical details which make fascinating reading. Perhaps a worthy subject for a film to follow in the steps of Coma. (P.E.D.)
Site and Page Design Copyright © 1998 TANGLED WEB
Author Profiles, New Book Digests and Weekly Lists
Generated by the