I'm a huge fan of medical thrillers - even more than legal and police procedurals, which I love. When Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs come out with new books, I'm chomping at the bit to get my eyes on them. This one was offered free on BookBub last April, and after reading the description I decided to take a chance despite a few less-than-glowing reviews (actually, the number of 5-star ratings far outweighed the 1-stars - 402 to 14 at the time of this writing, and the latter seemed to me to be so unusually nasty that I gave them short shrift).
Besides, I reasoned, the book is only 238 pages - an easy three-day read even if I don't have a lot of extra time. So, I added it to my collection - and there it sat until now, when I was in the mood for something I could finish rather quickly while I gathered up momentum to start something lengthier. I'd give it half a dozen chapters, I told myself, and if it didn't grab me by then, I'd fold up my tent and go elsewhere. But by golly, that tent never got unfolded; by the time I reached the 25% mark, I was caught up enough in the action that there was no question of stopping.
The book is the first in a series about intern Jill Raney and her resident supervisor, David Levine; early on, she discovers strange goings-on at "her" hospital, a prominent fertility and genetic engineering facility. Two pregnant women unexpectedly die and a seriously malformed fetus is delivered. Then, another pregnant woman turns up dead - this one clearly murdered, and her body has been drained of amniotic fluid. By now, Jill is nearly frantic, but hospital officials deny that anything is amiss and maintain that the deaths are in no way connected.
Needless to say, Jill refuses to quit until she proves her point (along the way convincing David - now her lover - that she isn't hallucinating). The pace picks up steam as Jill collects the evidence she needs; but can she come up with sufficient proof before more people are killed - herself included?
I really enjoyed this book, but admittedly, I had a couple of issues. First, I was surprised that Jill wasn't given the boot way back when she began ranting about her findings, despite several warnings to back off from hospital officials. Yes, her darling David ran interference for her, but he's "only" a resident himself, so I can't imagine his word would carry more weight that of department heads. Also, Jill seems far more prone to overwrought emotions than I'd expect from someone who's survived the rigors of medical school and, as an intern, been there, seen that. To be sure, it's a treat to find medical professionals who have a heart behind their stethoscopes, but most I've seen are not knee-jerk reactionists (nor should they be).
The ending leads the main characters on a not-so-merry chase to catch or be killed, a chase that was exciting until I got to David's sudden rationale that "Doctors don't shoot doctors" (but killing them with bare hands instead is just dandy). When I got to that one, I actually laughed out loud. First, it isn't even logical; second, this is a matter of survival; if the only way out is to kill someone, I seriously doubt Hippocrates would give a rip what you had to use to get the job done.
All in all, the book is well written and kept me turning pages (well, okay, tapping a stylus on my Kindle Fire) far longer at a time than I intended each time I sat down to read. Next up in the series is Embryo 2: Crosshairs; I haven't decided whether I'll get it - too many other books in my want-to-read pile at the moment - but I'm keeping my options open because I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed.
Embryo by J.A. Schneider (J.A. Schneider & R.G. Schneider, M.D., May 2012); 238 pp.