Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Review of "The Organ Takers - A Novel of Surgical Suspense" by Richard Van Anderson

Richard Van Anderson has made a very successful transition from the operating suite to the literary circle in this first volume of a proposed medical thriller trilogy.  "The Organ Takers" debunks the urban myth of someone waking up in a tub of ice in Las Vegas with a note on the bathroom mirror, and replaces it with the more plausible saga of a clever scheme for harvesting organs from previously screened donors.  Dr. Van Anderson's writing style combines some of the best of Robin Cook, John Grisham and Harlan Coban.

David McBride was a promising young surgical resident who made a difficult ethical choice that cost him his career.  Desperate to regain his status as a surgeon, he finds himself embroiled in a scheme that requires him to harvest kidneys from donors who have been swept off the streets of NYC.  Unbeknownst to McBride, his former mentor, Dr. Turnbull, a sociopath of the first order, is behind this organ harvesting operation as a means to fund his research into creating artificial human organs.  Having betrayed McBride once, Turnbull has the young surgeon at his mercy once again.  Throw in Cassandra, McBride's surgical nurse wife, a mysterious Mr. White who is front man for Turnbull's operation, a few Russian thugs and two NYC detectives, and you have a very satisfying potboiler of a novel.

Dr. Anderson writes with surgical precision and in an engaging style.  My only reason for not giving this book five stars is his deliberate insistence on creating a two-dimensional cartoon of a character in Detective Scarpelli, the "dumb cop" paired with clever Kate.  Scarpelli comes across as a latter day Andy Sipowicz of NYPD Blue, slovenly dressed and sloppy in personal fitness, inarticulate, Neanderthal in his views of women.  In the acknowledgement section at the end of the book, the author writes: "Thanks for bringing my cliched gang members and detectives to life."  If he knows he is writing cliches, he should up his game and prove that he learned something at Pine Manor College where he earned an MFA.  I expect more sophistication in the next two installments of the trilogy. Dr. Van Anderson, you are capable of writing with the nuanced suturing techniques that McBride learned in his plastic surgery rotation.  Use that fine needle work in stitching together believable three-dimensional characters across the board.

Despite my carping on this one stylistic point, I enjoyed this book and eagerly await the next two as the sage continues.



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