Sunday, April 12

Under the Knife - Tess Gerritsen

Anaesthetist Kate Chesne is good at her job, particularly when the patient is someone she knows and likes. When colleague Ellen O'Brien is on the table for routine gallstone surgery Kate doesn't anticipate any particular issues - Ellen's young and in good health, and her pre-op workup was fine. When Ellen arrests on the table Kate is stunned and distressed; when Kate is the subject of litigation she's stunned, and as evidence that she was negligent emerges, Kate becomes convinced that Ellen was murdered.
Under the Knife combined a medico-legal thriller with romance, as Kate and opposing attorney David Ransom find themselves attracted to one another despite themselves. David usually has no sympathy for malpracticing physicians but something about Kate makes him doubt, for the first time in his career, his own case.
I've reviewed two of Gerritsen's books here previously, one of which I found disappointing and uninspired, and one of which I liked. Under the Knife is definitely one of the former - even discounting the turgid poetry on p. 12, there's the uninspired description:
If he had to chose one word to describe Patrick and Mary O'Brien it would be gray. Gray hair, gray faces, gray clothes. Patrick was wearing a dull tweed jacket that had long ago sagged into shapelessness. Mary wore a dress in black-and-white print that seemed to blend together in a dull monochrome.

Not enough for you? How about Kate and David's first meeting:
His cold flippancy, rather than easing her tension, made him seem all the more unapproachable. She forced herself to move toward him, feeling his gaze every step of the way. For a man with his highly regarded reputation, he was younger than she'd expected, not yet in his forties. Establishment was stamped all over his clothes from his gray pinstripe suit to his Yale clip. But a tan that deep and hair that sun-streaked didn't go along with an Ivy League type. He's just a surfer boy all grown up, she thought derisively.
A section as long ago about his physique and facial features ("a slab of a nose and a blunt chin saved him from being pretty") follow.
I couldn't invest in anything - the characters left me cold and the plot just seemed too far a stretch for credulity while being simultaneously predictable. Maybe it's my professional background combined with being a veteran reader of several hundred medical novels, but as soon as the surgeon remarked that Ellen's abdomen was a little tight I knew the sux (paralytic agent) had been substituted.
in truth even the author description (which begins "Tess Gerritsen is an accomplished woman with an interesting history") put me off. Under the Knife reads to me as an unsuccessful attempt to add a medical mystery to a romance novel, rather than adding a level of romantic interest and motivation to a medical thriller. Well, the portion I read did, at any rate. I stopped reading at chapter six and have only now realised that the "and Whistleblower" on the cover refers to a second novella packaged together to make one book-sized tome.
First published in 1990 Under the Knife does not show Gerritsen at anywhere near her best. I strongly recommend that you try a little later in her publishing list if you want to give her work a go. - Alex

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