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.
This was a good mystery novel, but it takes a while for it to really get going. From the get go we are immersed in Steve Mitchell’s life, learning about his daily routine, his hopes and fears, and his extreme talent for surgery. He has a great life, though perhaps he’s a little too cocky about his abilities, which in turn causes him to begin making mistakes–mistakes that cost lives and put him under intense scrutiny and his job on the line. It’s very interesting tale of espionage and betrayal, but the reader really has to wait for it to begin.
The first 30% or so of the novel focuses on Steve and his surgeries, and there are many gritty detailed descriptions as he cuts into people and feels around in their abdomens… cutting through fat, slicing apart muscle, and really digging his fingers in there. If that makes your squeamish, then you may want to skim those parts, because there are quite a few in the beginning, and they’re somewhat long. I also recommend reading this the old fashion way and not listening to it on tape. I was listening to the novel on my Kindle using the text-to-speech feather when I was blindsided by these gory descriptions and had to nix that straight away. Perhaps it’s just me, but there was something exceptionally creepy and nerve-wracking about a mechanical voice reading off the details… so this would be a book that I definitely recommend you read as opposed to listen to…
Detailed descriptions and long introduction aside, though, this novel really begins to take off as the Steve begins making bad decisions in terms of his family due to the pressures at work. Thus, he and soon finds himself in a race against time to save people’s lives within the hospital, especially once the truth comes out about who has been sabotaging him and the rules are set on the table. As the novel progresses, it becomes apparent that Parsons really knows his way around the medical field and, apparently, around special opts as well. He did a great job fleshing out the scenes, explaining procedures, and putting into play some key special opts scenes that really made the novel an intriguing read, and I highly suggest it if you like murder mystery novels. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Four stars.
St. Martin’s Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 4, 2014.