Hello and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! This week we have something special for you: we are going to acknowledge (and encourage) the Daily Dose half of the blog! That’s right folks, today we are merging the fiction and medical interests in this Fiction Feature (don’t worry, we promise not to use any superfluously convoluted medicinal jargon). This week we have a thrilling selection of medical fiction, proving that doctors save lives with their medicines, their expert knowledge, and their…specialized weapons?
The Dragon and the Needle by Hugh Franks
The first entry is the book which inspired our medical-fiction union. The Dragon and the Needle appropriately merges two other ostensibly linked yet-separate worlds in its thrilling exploration of Eastern and Western medicine and politics. The clash between the Orient and the West is put under the spotlight in this far-reaching novel of medical and political intrigue. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story. Then a brilliant young British doctor, Mike, and a glamorous American acupuncturist, Eleanor, become involved in finding the cause of ENDS. They think they are on the right track, but the implications are shocking. Could this be an audacious ideological plan for world domination? And how does Eleanor’s dead husband Chen fit in? When the secrets of The Dragon and the Needle are revealed, where will Eleanor’s loyalties ultimately lie?
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson
We’ve got another medical thriller with The Great Trouble, the story of an unfortunately named young boy, a deadly epidemic, and feuding scientists. Just the think for a quiet Friday at home. Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he’s got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren’t so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it’s clear that the deadly cholera—the “blue death”—has come to Broad Street. Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it’s up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow’s theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out. Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
The next selection on our list, The People in the Trees, comes with the subtitle: “The Man Who Didn’t Watch Enough Twilight Zone” because (aside from hours of marathoned black-and-white entertainment) The Twilight Zone’s great contribution is teaching generations that if it seems to good to be true, it is, and ‘the worst that could happen’ is definitely worse than you think. But, of course not everyone watches such classics (a terrible error), and so the world is peopled with unsuspicious characters like Norton. Oh well, someone has to teach the next generation to know better. In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub “The Dreamers,” who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
I’m very excited to present the next book for your approval because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more action-packed approach to an internship. Eschewing the classic chess game (good news for those of us who will have to rely on dusty checkers skills to get out of that one), Beat the Reaper plays the deadly game with…well I don’t quite know but it involves a skilled assassin and a lot of medical equipment, so I’m sure it’s at least inventive. Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan’s worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he’d prefer to keep hidden. Whether it’s a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he’s the last person you want to see in your hospital room. Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown’s new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person … Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.
Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons
Finally, we conclude with another book proving that the medical field is not what we think. No, I’m not talking about sexy doctors with copious inexplicable amounts of free time! Doing Harm joins Beat the Reaper in explaining the hidden dangers of work in the medical field. Like hallways fraught with psychopaths. I suppose every one gets ill eventually… “It’s amazing that there are so many different ways to die in a hospital that have nothing to do with being sick…” Steve Mitchell, happily married with a wife and two kids, is in line for a coveted position at Boston’s University Hospital when his world goes awry. His over-reaching ambition causes him to botch a major surgery, and another of his patients mysteriously dies. Steve’s nightmare goes from bad to worse when he learns that the mysterious death was no accident but the act of a sociopath. A sociopath he knows and who has information that could destroy Steve’s career and marriage. A sociopath for whom killing is more than a means to an end: it’s a game. Because he is under a cloud of suspicion and has no evidence, he knows that any accusations he makes won’t be believed. So he must struggle to turn the tables, even as the killer skillfully blocks his every move. Detailing the politics of hospitals, the hierarchy among doctors and the life and death decisions that are made by flawed human beings, Doing Harm marks the debut of a major fiction career.