Posts Tagged ‘hospitals’

‘Beat the Reaper’ by Josh Bazell

July 24, 2013

Very entertaining: very funny and gripping. A former mafia hitman has retrained as a doctor, but hasn’t lost his martial arts competence, which is a good thing as the mafia is on his tracks for killing an important mob attorney’s son and turning state’s witness. When they catch up with him, his work in a hospital gets even more stressful. (Do I sound like a blurb already? Not quite, I hope.)

So I can definitely recommend this, if you don’t suffer from shark phobia. The same goes for the sequel, Wild Thing (2012), which takes place mostly outdoors, or at least mostly not inside hospitals. You get a vivid impression of how hospitals work (at least U.S.-American hospitals, though German ones may be not much better) where economic considerations are paramount, and nurses as well as doctors low in the hierarchy are exploited as far as possible. Perhaps one can get similar insights from watching House? I haven’t yet done so, however.

Hospitals (and the dire conditions in them) forge a connection to another crime novel I have recently read, Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre, which deals with a Scottish hospital. That one was also good, but not quite as good as Bazell’s novels. I thought the dialogues felt a bit contrived.

You also learn quite a few other things in the process of reading Beat the Reaper. Bazell strives to enlighten his readers while entertaining them, and he succeeds, I think. This intention to enlighten and to foster rational thinking becomes especially clear with the sequel, which has about 40 pages of notes and background information. It amazes me how much Bazell must read. I mean, I read a lot, but I read mostly fiction. He must devour both fiction (otherwise he couldn’t write that well) and fact. Oh well, we must learn to accept our limits …

The protagonist’s name, Pietro Brnwa, is weird. The character is supposed to be of Polish origin, and “Brnwa” a Polish name, but I have difficulty swallowing that. On the other hand, I am anything but an expert on Polish family names, so what do I know. And it is suggested to pronounce it as “Brown”. I am not an expert on Polish pronunciation, either, but that seems implausible to me again. If you know better, don’t hesitate to enlighten me. (The name of the main character of Quite Ugly One Morning is Jack Parlabane. Now he’s not supposed to be Polish, but rather Scottish, but similarly that doesn’t sound like a typical Scottish name to me. Maybe it’s an untypical one.)

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