Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: Critical Condition by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

Earlier this year I reviewed my first medical thriller with mixed emotions.  While the story was great, the language and some of the situations were very off-putting.  So I hoped that reading a medical thriller that was published on the Christian market could have it all--a great story without all the language and sex.  Critical Condition was written by a retired MD, so I have no doubt that all of the medical terms and practices were accurate, and they were very interesting.  There was nothing inappropriate, or even anything that made me cringe.  But did it measure up to my expectations? 
The plot of the story is intriguing.  Ten years ago Dr. Shannon Frasier's boyfriend was shot, bled out and died in her arms.  Now, on a warm July evening history seems to be repeating itself when a man is shot and left to die on her front lawn.  Before he dies, the stranger whispers a jumble of numbers that make no sense to Shannon or the police.  But they make sense to someone, and he will stop at nothing to get them.  As the plot unfolds Shannon is drawn deeper and deeper into a web of drugs, dirty cops, bank robbery and kidnapping.  Mixed with her own personal problems--an ill father, panic attacks and unwanted attention from a detective--these situations are almost enough to drive Shannon over the edge...or maybe back to the God she has forsaken. 
Shannon's boyfriend, Dr. Mark Gilbert, has been hoping for a while that Shannon will allow him to propose to her, but something seems to be holding her back from commitment.  He knows about her previous boyfriend's death, and when he purchases a gun to protect Shannon from the evil man who is looking for her, he only pushes her further away.  Shannon's recovering drug-addict sister has moved into her house for a few weeks after leaving her boyfriend.  Shannon is afraid that Megan has returned to her old ways again, and the feeling only grows when Megan's ex is found dead a few hours after Megan's last encounter with him.  Add in a detective with a grudge, and another with more-than-professional interest in Shannon, and you've got quite a cast of characters.
So, with a great plot and interesting characters, why did this book just not hit home with me?  I've thought it over and I think it's just the writing style of Dr. Mabry.  I felt more like someone was just telling me a story about something that happened, rather than reading a novel.  The first murder happened on the first page, and the second one came only a page or two later.  There was barely any introduction to the story at all.  In addition to the strange beginning, I thought that the characters behaved in ways that real people would not.  I thought the detectives made way too many visits to the Frasier's house.  Even though Steve Alston seemed to be interested in Shannon, I thought his actions were a bit far-fetched.  I thought the revealing of the reason for his interest in her was awkward and a little strange.  I think it was added as another layer to the story, but it just didn't work for me.  There were a few characters in the book whose purpose I couldn't find.  Megan's roommate was a weird addition, as was the beautiful doctor that Mark met at the cancer center.  They seemed unnecessary to the plot.  Then there was the issue of Megan being fired from a pharmaceutical company because her samples were disappearing.  A week later she was hired by another pharmaceutical company doing the same job.  I don't know of any business that deals with meds that would even hire a recovering drug-addict, and definitely not one that had just been fired for stealing samples.   
Even with these characters flaws and plot gaps, this book wasn't all bad.  Even though you know who the bad guy is from the beginning, Dr. Mabry did a good job of throwing in some unexpected twists.  There were a few tense moments when I wasn't sure who was involved in the crimes being committed.  If you like medical thrillers and want one that's clean and still interesting, I recommend Critical Condition.  I don't regret reading it, but I don't think I'll read Dr. Mabry's work in the future.  I think his style just isn't my cup of tea.  If you have read this book, or others by Dr. Mabry, and enjoyed them, let me know.  Maybe someone could change my mind about him!

Happy reading!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my review all opinions are my own.   

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