Recent Events

Sunday, 4 January 2015

‘Resistant’ by Michael Palmer

Published by Headline,
20 May 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-0900-9

Most, if not all, fiction emanates from the question ‘what if...?’, and sometimes the answer can be pretty scary.

It gets scariest of all when the premise runs so close to reality that the reader begins to wonder if the author knows something. So it is with Resistant, Michael Palmer’s nineteenth ‘medical thriller’, (and alas his last; he died last year, before this book was published.) It’s based on two particularly worrying ‘what ifs’: what if a life-threatening infection grew resistant to every known treatment and began to run out of control? and what if a small but powerful and determined group of wealthy right-wing extremists infiltrated every organization which controls parts of people’s lives?

In the novel the second has happened and the first is about to – and as if that wasn’t enough, it’s the extremists who have created the bug that causes the infection, and they’re planning to use it to bend the US government to their will. Their members and supporters are everywhere, and no one can be trusted; but for emergency doctor and recovering addict Lou Welcome, it becomes personal when his best friend falls victim to the bug.

The result is a tense thriller which starts slowly but gathers pace as Lou’s life threatens to fall apart under the strain of supporting his friend, sorting the extremists from the good guys, and chasing down a cure before the bug causes a worldwide pandemic.

Along the way he acquires one of the most original sidekicks I’ve ever encountered in crime fiction: Humphrey Miller, feisty as they come, whose brain the size of a planet goes unacknowledged because he is wheelchair-bound and severely disabled with cerebral palsy.

Lou himself is a character with interesting layers. Together with  Humphrey, Lou’s equally feisty teenage daughter Emily, and Cap the bug-ridden friend, he goes a long way towards compensating for some rather Central Casting villains: huge, muscle-bound bodyguards; the extremists’ leader who looks like a senator and shoots like an Olympic champion, straight out of his adapted walking stick; a rogue FBI agent who is a master of disguise.

But like all the best thrillers – and this is up there – it’s the plot which kept me reading till the small hours. And once I realized what was happening, I heard a tiny, terrified voice in the back of my mind asking, could this really happen?

That’s the the scariest thing of all. There’s an uncomfortably large amount of evidence in the real world to suggest that it could.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Michael Palmer, M.D., 1942-2013, was the author of  Political Suicide, Oath of Office, A Heartbeat Away, The Last Surgeon, The Second Opinion, The First Patient, The Fifth Vial, The Society, Fatal, The Patient, Miracle Cure, Critical Judgment, Silent Treatment, Natural Causes, Extreme Measures, Flashback, Side Effects, and The Sisterhood. His books have been translated into thirty-five languages. He trained in internal medicine at Boston City and Massachusetts General Hospitals, spent twenty years as a full-time practitioner of internal and emergency medicine, and served as an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s physician health program. Michael died unexpectedly on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 in New York. He was 71

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment