Tag Archives: medical thriller

Arab Spring the driving force in taut international thriller

Come Home, by Patricia Gussin. Oceanview Publishing. 368 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

Remember 2011 – the year of the Arab Spring? The turmoil in the Middle East provides a backdrop for Ms. Gussin’s fast-paced thriller. Ahmed Masud, middle son in a wealthy Egyptian family, is called back to Cairo to help prepare for his family’s future after the Mubarak regime collapses. Their wealth derives being favored by Mubarak’s son, who handed them an Egyptian cotton empire. Also, Ahmed’s parents wish to see his five-year-old son, Alex. Succumbing to their pressure, and unsettled by medical malpractice lawsuits, Ahmed steals his son away to Cairo, rashly jeopardizing his marriage and the American dream lifestyle he and his wife, also a plastic surgeon, have shared.  

Readers will be puzzled by Ahmed’s sudden sense of family duty, as was his wife, Dr. Nicole Nelson, who is outraged and crushed by his behavior. She wants her son back! Nicole rallies the support of her twin sister Natalie and their accomplished, successful brothers.

A second crisis hits Natalie, who is in charge of a major program at a large pharmaceutical company. Its cancer drug has tested well and is saving lives with the promise of saving many more. However, people are dying – of constipation. The FDA insists that this serious problem be cleared up. The drug itself is not deadly; rather, the painkillers prescribed to lessen the patients’ suffering are causing the problem. Her career in the balance, Natalie has a difficult time balancing the needs of her company and her desire to aide her sister, reeling from Ahmed’s behavior. Natalie, however, is up to the task.

The Nelson family hires a major security agency to work on rescuing Alex. The chief of the security team has extensive connections and immediately puts them to use.


The plot runs back and forth among happenings in Egypt, Philadelphia, Uruguay, Belgium, and Liberia. The Masud family is under great stress, and Ahmed’s older and younger brothers are power-crazed psychopaths driven to extremes by the threats to the elite Mubarak establishment and by their own greed. There is a race to solve the pharma problem, another to control and relocate the Masud family, and through it all the chase after Nicole’s missing son. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly -Come Home

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Threat of bird flu epidemic sets canine-aided security force into action

Reckless Creed, by Alex Kava. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 336 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Alex Kava’s highly original Ryder Creed series gets better and better as the title character gains in complexity. His interaction with FBI agent Maggie O’Dell allows fresh challenges for this fine title character of her earlier series. The originality of the Creed series lies in the occupation of its protagonist; the former marine is now an established, sought-after trainer of search-and-rescue dogs. He has a thriving facility on the Florida panhandle. recklesscreed

The plot concerns a bird flu contagion that might have been manipulated, if not an unintended consequence of radical experimentation under the wraps of government agencies.  How do you test an antidote without developing victims to catch and carry the disease? Among the alphabet soup of government medical research operations, something sinister is going on. Is there a chance that some rogue group is working to weaponized bird flu?

Birds are falling out of the sky. Are infected birds, living or dead, a threat to humans? Can the disease evolve or be engineered to that end? Is the virus air-borne, conveyed by touch, by exposure to infected bodily fluids?

Such questions energize this red-hot thriller, and – as we might expect – canine abilities come into play.

As usual, Ms. Kava masterfully employs the alternation of terse, vivid scenes to build a plot as much spatial as it is temporal. In Chicago, Tony, a long-time friend of Creed’s assistant Jason, is extremely sick. He’s being paid to touch as many surfaces as possible. Followers report his progress. He is coughing up blood, feverish, and nauseated. Tony steps out onto the 19th floor balcony of his hotel room for some fresh air, then is suddenly pushed over the railing, plunging to his death.

Alex Kava

Alex Kava

In New York, ailing yet determined Christina Lomax leads a marginal life in a similar employ. She plays the role of a tourist, disguising her actions as a player in an experiment. She too has handlers and followers.

In southern Alabama, Ryder Creed’s favorite search dog, Grace, discovers a young woman drowned in a river with rocks in her pockets. In Nebraska, Maggie O’Dell sees redwing blackbirds falling from the sky.

Bird flu is the link, and Creed’s dogs are the hoped for solution. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 8, 2016 Naples Florida Weekly and also the, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Reckless Creed

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FDA approval process generates sizzling medical thriller

After the Fall, by Patricia Gussin. Oceanview Publishing. 378 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

This fourth Laura Nelson thriller is a page-turner par excellence. An accidental fall leaves Laura in great pain. Her smashed hand cannot be reconstructed sufficiently for her to continue performing surgery. The title phrase, however, has other echoes – like a fall from grace or esteem. Such a fall is something that Laura fears when confronted with the need to reveal – or have revealed by others – painful secrets from her past.  AfterFall

Having done research on a new drug and spoken on its behalf before an FDA Advisory Committee, Laura is sharing the expectation that Immunone will soon be approved and be in production by Keystone Pharma. Keystone had gained control of the drug, a major anti-rejection advance for organ transplant patients, by investing in Replica, a much smaller company that had developed Immunone under the leadership of its prime researcher, a beautiful Iraqi scientist named Adawia (“Addie”) Abdul.

The sooner Immunone is approved, the sooner Addie can receive a contracted payment of $7.5 million and rush off to Iraq where she will comfort her ailing father and perhaps take over his work as chief scientist for Iraq’s chemical weapons program.

Addie, quite Americanized after a dozen or so years in the U. S. as a graduate student and research scientist, is reluctant to go, but sees no alternative. Someone else very much wants her to stay. Jake Harter, the FDA project manager for the Immunone case, is smitten with Addie, sick of his failed marriage, and frustrated by being undervalued by the medical professionals and administrators. To keep Addie around, he makes a false claim about incomplete documentation that will delay the drug’s final approval – and the payoff to Addie.

This ex-Marine is a sociopath who murders his wife (divorce might be difficult and drawn out); runs down Dr. Minn, a skilled advocate for the drug’s approved; and courts Addie assiduously.

Patricia Gussin

Patricia Gussin

Keystone Pharma had offered Laura Dr. Minn’s position – Vice President for Research – effective upon his imminent retirement. With Minn killed in the horrible hit and run, the company needs Laura immediately to accomplish the drug’s final approval.

On the same night as Minn’s death, Laura takes that terrible fall in icy Philadelphia, her hand shattered beyond functional reconstruction. With her career as a Tampa surgeon cut short, she accepts the Keystone Pharma position.

One more piece: Laura has been a widow for many years. Her old friend and constant admirer, Dr. Tim Robinson, has now come forcefully into her life and proposed marriage. Laura hesitates. As she thinks about how to prepare herself and her five children for such a change, she realizes that she needs to come clean about certain past deeds. She moves in with Tim in his City Center Philadelphia home. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 14, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 15 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – AfterTheFall 1 and here: Florida Weekly – AfterTheFall 2

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No Time to Die

No Time to Die, by Kira Peikoff. Pinnacle Books. 448 pp. Mass market paperback $8.99.

Posted September 29, 2014 at Washington Independent Review of Books.

A sharp biomedical thriller asks, what if old age and infirmity were not inevitable?
What if the aging process could be slowed or stopped? What if human beings could reach their optimal physical state and then just stay there, even as they continued to learn, to explore, to love, and to create? Some might say that such a scientific breakthrough would soon lead to an overcrowded globe and exhaustion of resources. Others might worry that those with the keys to this kingdom would exploit their power. Who would be the gatekeepers? These and other related questions drive Kira Peikoff’s delightfully brainy and thrillingly suspenseful novel No Time to Die, in which this “what if” becomes the reality of her fictional world.Peikoff launches her story not with airy generalizations but with attention-grabbing, violent, and mysterious actions. We enter a Washington, D.C., lab in which a proud scientist is working with chimpanzees. His company tests experimental medications on these animals in the process of bringing the drugs to market for human consumption. An intruder posing as a company board member arranges for the chimps to attack the scientist. He leaves a calling card bearing the name Galileo.At New York’s Columbia University, a researcher pushes ahead with unauthorized experiments. Forced into retirement, she is soon given a new opportunity to pursue her work. Who will she report to? A man calling himself Galileo.The focal character of the book is Zoe Kincaid. Zoe will soon be 21 years old, but she looks 12. Maturing normally in other ways, she is not what she seems. Having attempted college, Zoe floundered when seen as a freak. Hormone therapies have failed to have any effect.

Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff

Now, with her frail grandfather’s support, she consults with Dr. Carlyle, “a legendary diagnostician in genetic disorders” and consultant to the Undiagnosed Diseases Program at the National Institutes of Health. He would seem to be her last chance. Zoe pays the $10,000 charge for the lab and imaging fees with her parents’ credit card — but without their permission. Dr. Carlyle makes the diagnosis that Zoe stopped aging at 14.

With this information, Zoe at least has a battle to fight, even though it means separating herself from her parents, who are quite unable to face the truth about their daughter’s condition or her much-needed independence.

When Les Mahler, head of the Justice Department’s Bioethics Committee, receives a copy of a mysterious Galileo postcard to mark the disappearance of the Columbia University researcher, Helen McNair, it is the 27th such postcard to come his way. Where are all these scientists, doctors, and patients? Where is the headquarters of the Network that has, in Mahler’s view, abducted them? How does Galileo keep a step ahead of Mahler’s investigation into the Network’s doings?

Here is Galileo’s mantra, as voiced to research professor Natalie Roy: “Our mission is to give experts like you the total freedom required to pursue biomedical advances as quickly and efficiently as possible. No board-required approvals, no drug companies or bureaucrats pushing agendas, no byzantine FDA regulations.”

Mahler is also a man with a mission, as well as a cruel streak. He wishes to bring stringent oversight to the regulation of human experimentation. He feels vulnerable people are being persuaded to take great risks for the sake of researchers’ egos and corrupt motives. However, his own ego is enormously dangerous (so dangerous that he lives at the top of a 30-story Georgetown high-rise, an impossibility given D.C.’s building height restriction ordinance).

The battle soon takes shape between Mahler’s FBI-supported committee and the Network, which readers learn is not made up of abductees but rather of volunteers. The search to understand the cause of Zoe’s abnormality begins at Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences, with Dr. Roy as the principal researcher. It’s her theory that is being tested, with the aim of duplicating Zoe’s condition in people who are fully mature, stopping the progression of aging at the peak time of physical capacity.

All along the way, Peikoff interlaces the action with a stream of scientific information and speculation presented with excited clarity. The characters love what they are doing and feed off each other’s dedication and intellectual daring. Mahler is dedicated to tracking them down and ending their underground lawlessness. Galileo, the Network’s leader, is pushed to the limit of his astounding abilities to help such programs succeed.

Within this compelling look at individuals and groups at work in the university- and government-based research community, Peikoff offers a frightening display of ambition, competition, and careerism gone wild. . . .

To read the entire review, click on: No Time to Die | Washington Independent Review of Books

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Murder of CEO plagues debut of cancer cure start-up

XC 97: The Quest for the Cure, by Mark Dossey. Book-broker Publishers. 360 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

The debut novel has three interrelated plots. First of all, a start-up company based in Newark, New Jersey has found a cure for cancer and needs to find a partner (financial backer) as soon as possible to support manufacture and marketing. Of course, it will need FDA approval and any suitor will need to verify the test results.  A trade conference in Atlantic City provides the opportunity to break the good news to the medical industry, and one impressive Swiss company is rushing to make an offer that can’t be refused. XC97cover

A second story line has to do with the murder of the company’s founding leader. Integra’s CEO, Victor Allagara, is found shot in his home soon after consecutive visits from two women. One of these, it turns out is his faithful and loving secretary Jennifer. Before Jennifer showed up, young and sensuous Ally Kendall, Integra’s new marketing director, had been there. They are two of several suspects being investigated by the Newark police. Any scandal associated with the firm might hamper its ability to find the deep pockets that it needs.

The third piece of action follows the galloping romance between Ally and the gorgeous hunk who heads the Swiss company. This is a glamorous and exciting romp, though it seems a bit superficial, based almost exclusively on physical attraction. The instant lovers’ feelings for one another are tinged by the leverage Stephan has regarding the future health of Integra. Their frenzied affair takes us to splendid vistas, lavish homes and resorts, and plenty of self indulgence.

Mr. Dossey keeps us moving back and forth through these three centers of interest. Ally is the linchpin character: a principal actor in representing Integra to the medical community and to possible investors, the main suspect in the murder mystery (though readers know that she is innocent), and the love interest of a successful and handsome young businessman.



In spite of her centrality, there are plenty of scenes without her. Many of these focus on the two policemen assigned to the case as they chase down clues, await DNA evidence, interview persons of interest, and discuss their next moves. The author handles the tension of the investigation and the interplay of the detective team members quite ably. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 24, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 25 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mark Dossey

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“Weapon of Choice,” by Patricia Gussin

Weapon of Choice

Oceanview Publishing, $25.95, 328 pages.

In Tampa, chief of surgery and research professor Laura Nelson finds her hospital’s intensive care unit ravaged by a virulent rogue bacterium. Among those threatened are her teenage daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. Aided by her Atlanta-based friend Dr. Stacey Jones of the Center for Disease Control, Laura helps put quarantine measures into effect and seeks an effective countermeasure. 

Patricia Gussin

Readers soon discover that the killer bio-agent has been purposely planted by a mad scientist who wants revenge on his former NIH colleague, a man who had attained great prestige and wealth developing formulas on which the men had collaborated.

As is common research practice, the virulent bacteria strain was developed not for biotech warfare, but rather as a first step toward designing its antidote. . . .

To read the full review, my last for the citybookreview.com team, click here: Weapon of Choice | City Book Review

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Good Cook

Just before 2009 began, best-selling author Robin Cook was kind enough to invite me into his stunning penthouse condo on the north end of Naples’ Park Shore overlooking the gulf beachfront. In the early 1980s, having written a few best-sellers, Cook decided to put some of his income into real estate. After looking around at Marco Island and Naples, he decided that Naples had more investment potential and purchased an apartment, some years later moving to his present residence.

Trim and fit at 68, Dr. Cook reviewed his career as an author, a career he never anticipated but that is now approaching the 30-book mark. His first book, Year of the Intern (1972) grew out of his disillusionment with how popular fiction, movies, and especially television had portrayed the training of physicians. His own experience revealed a very different picture. In fact, he found himself worrying over “joining a club that he wasn’t sure he wanted to belong to.”


Cook felt driven to share his insights with the public. While a success, Year of the Intern left Cook eager to learn more about the tricks of his new trade. He studied the key features in best-sellers, and five years later published Coma, an instant hit that was soon transformed into a high-profile movie starring Michael Douglas. Since then, it has been about a book a year for this graduate of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons who did postgraduate training at Harvard.


For the full article, see the March-April issue of Fort Myers MagazineFt.Myers magazine – Robin Cook


The photo that follows shows Dr. Cook signing books after his presentation at Vergina Restadscf2140urant in Naples on April 4, 2009.

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