My thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for a review copy of the book.
Fatal Intent is a fast-paced and exciting medical mystery/thriller which also brings into focus an issue that can impact us all.
The story is narrated in the voice of Kate Downey, an anesthesiologist working at a university hospital in Florida. Her husband Greg, a military doctor, has been in a coma for nearly a year after an explosion and consequent brain injury when he was deployed. Kate lives with her loveable and slightly eccentric great-aunt Irm and lab, Shadow. At work, she has been placed on probation by the Chief of Staff, Dr Walker, for an incident involving some wrong medication which impacted an organ donation case.
Attending the funeral of a friend of her aunt’s one day, and a little later the same day, that of Dr O’Donnell, former president of the University, Kate’s suspicions are roused for both were cases on which she had worked. Both patients had undergone minor procedures and were fine when discharged, yet both died within two days of their surgery. Finding that both had been operated on by Dr Charles Ricken, an arrogant and unpleasant surgeon who has nearly everyone’s hackles up, she decides to at least bring up the matter with him. But he reacts strongly and she finds herself at the receiving end of a reprimand from Dr Walker, who is already against her. Her Chair professor, James Worrell supports her but asks her to tread carefully. But she soon finds herself blamed for malpractice and the subject of an inquiry.
Meanwhile Kate runs into Dr O’Donnell’s son Christian, a lawyer, who tells her that he and his brother Luke (a doctor) are also looking into their father’s death. Christian and Kate, her bright intern Jenn and great-aunt Irm (also remotely, Luke), begin to look into the matter piecing together clues, and finding more such cases along the way.
Alongside, there is also further trouble at the hospital for Kate as a student who isn’t up to the mark with his work tries to pin the blame on her making all sorts of false allegations; while at home, Greg’s brother Adam is fighting her to put an end to Greg’s life support, something Kate is unwilling to do, for it would involve literally starving him to death.
This was a thrilling and engrossing read which kept me hooked all through. From the point when Kate pretty much stumbles upon the two suspicious deaths, to piecing together the few clues she has, to being joined by Christian and the others in her investigation, discovering other cases and the whole journey of tracing down the killer to prevent him from causing any further harm, I enjoyed the mystery at every step. This is not so much a whodunit in that one has clues to the possible who/whos fairly early on, and the why begins to make sense too, some way into the story. But despite this, the author kept me reading to see how they would catch up with the killer and whether they’d be able to stop him in time; there are surprises and events that one didn’t expect all the way. Also interesting was watching Kate work out the ‘how’. Some of the scenes at the end though I found to be a touch too dramatic (though this might be just me because I often have this reaction in mystery thrillers).
Reading the story, one can tell that it is written by a person who has experienced the pressures of working in a hospital, and in situations the characters deal with, and dilemmas they must face. Even before I read the author’s note at the end confirming this, it was evident. She conveys well, how working in a hospital isn’t in some ways, very different from other human institutions for besides the pressures of work, and the split second decisions that doctors are so many times faced with, there is also the inevitable politics of things, and being on the wrong side of the powers that be is never a good place to be, as poor Kate soon realises.
The characters in the story I found to be really likeable—Kate herself is a character one really feels for (and roots for) and she displays great strength and tenacity considering all that she has been going through in her personal and professional life. Christian too, carries baggage, but proves to be a good friend and partner in the investigations (there is also a line of possible romance explored which was quite nicely and subtly done). Jenn is enthusiastic but also naïve, while Dr Worrell is a great person to have backing one. My favourite character though was probably great-aunt Irm, who not only always supports and has great meals (there’s plenty of food) for everyone, but who seems to be able to gauge people’s personalities, even when she has not met them. Aunt Irm is spot on every time about who can be trusted and who can’t. And of course, I also loved all the doggos in the story (4 of them)—but that goes without saying.
The issue that Euliano tries to discuss through the mystery is as I said a really relevant one—the prolonging of the life of those who are terminally ill or in a vegetative state, and relatedly the issue of living wills. This throws up so many questions in terms of who is or should be the right person to make that decision (particularly when one leaves no living will), and whether the kind of death a patient will undergo (not always peaceful) is justified by relieving the patient of longer term suffering? More so when one can’t always be certain the person taking the decision has the patient’s best interests at heart.
This was a really great read, and even before I finished I was already wondering if the author is working on any other books, as I for one will be excited to read them!
Rekha at the Book Decoder also enjoyed this one; find her review here