Meet Dr. Kate Downey. This woman lives the nightmare you hope to never have as a reality. Husband Greg has been in a prolonged coma. The chances that he will wake up are slim however, he is breathing on his own. There are no machines keeping him alive so a life-ending decision, is a cruel one: they would have to withhold IV nourishment and Kate would have to approve of this manner of death.
If that is not enough, the place where she finds distraction from sorrow and where she excels, is creating nightmares too. People start dying around her. Now you may think that in a hospital setting, this is not a surprise. But these people didn’t die after major surgery. They did not have averse reactions to the anesthesia either. They died a day or two afterwards.
Your first thought is of course, an infection. Somehow the patient got infected. OK, but then why did nobody else, present during the surgery, die?
Meet Great-Aunt Irm. If this book is ever made into a movie they better do a perfect job casting her as to me, she’s the backbone of this story. Aunt Irm, as she is called in the book, is German and lovingly calls Kate ‘kindchen.’ It means small child.
Kate and Aunt Irm live together. They share their heartbreaks, their sorrows, and due to patients dying, including Irm’s brother Max, they share the drive to get to the bottom of these incredible events.
We meet the son of one patient Kate lost. His name is Christian O’Donnell. Despite the fact that he is instrumental in solving the murders and getting through to the right people, I disliked him from the start. Not because he is obviously falling for Kate but for being clueless that his behaviour can be suffocating, inappropriate, and off putting. But that is my personal opinion.
The events develop fast. It starts with two funerals. Two patients have died. In Chapter two, you already know where the book is going: the hunt for the killer, how is this person exactly killing patients, where do they get access to the patients, where do the murder weapons come from, and who else is in on this?
But, I don’t want to write that kind of book review. A few other things are more important.
- This is a debut novel but without hiccups. The story flows seamlessly, the time-span is fast but achievable, the procedures are correct (of course) and the murder method, not impossible. In short, if this is a debut novel you can imagine what Euliano comes up with in a year or two!
- I read online that some reviewers took issue with the medical terminology in the book. I disagree. You need not have a medical degree to follow this story. Nothing stops you from putting the book down, grab your cell phone, and look up a term or two. It actually enhances the story if you do because you can see images of the tools, medications, etc.
- I read that others didn’t like it that the motive for the murders was obvious from the start. I agree it is clear from the start but that was the author’s goal. Just look at her author’s notes in the back of the book. I always read them first. It tells me a lot about the book, the efforts the author made, the people consulted, and the goal/reason for writing this book. It is my motivation to invest my time in a book. It is right in there. Euliano wants you to think about the hard questions. Would you want to be resuscitated and under which circumstances? If, heaven forbids, your bodily form is all there is in that hospital bed, would you want to exist like that? Is being alive more important than living your life with others? What would you want from your close, trusted relatives? That they keep you alive at all costs knowing your lively spirit has left or, would you ask them to get a second medical opinion and let you go? The goal of this book is indeed obvious but it is well executed.
- Oher critique centered on knowing too soon who the culprit is. Without giving away the ending, yes, it is clear. But there is a lot you don’t know and Euliano unfolds that web slowly. Just wait till the end.
Highly recommended reading for those interested in medical mysteries and those who like to think about a book’s message long after you finished reading.