Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Harvest" by Tess Gerritsen

Dr. Abby Di Matteo is a surgical student who is on the verge of being accepted into the hospital's elite organ transplant team, courtesy of her lover Dr. Mark Hodell. However, her career hits rocky ground when she teams up with resident Dr. Vivian Chao to ensure that the heart of a car accident victim goes to a dying teenage boy, rather than Nina Voss, the wife of a millionaire. Her attempts at holding onto her job are further jeopardised when Nina becomes the recipient of another healthy heart, and Abby discovers that its procurement wasn't exactly above-board. No traces of the donor's details can be found.

Things only get worse. Nina's husband Victor, furious at Abby over her involvement in the original heart switcheroo, uses his considerable wealth to tie Abby up in law-suits. One of the transplant team members seemingly commits suicide, but a detective finds the death suspicious. As Abby uncovers a conspiracy, attempts to discredit and silence her step up a notch.

Published in 1996, this was Gerritsen's first thriller after many years writing romantic suspense tales. It's no surprise this catapulted her into the big-time, as it's an enjoyable fast-paced read. Poor Abby really does through all seven levels of hell to uncover the truth about the organ harvest conspiracy at Bayside Hospital. Her determination to proceed despite everything that's thrown at her makes her an engaging heroine, one you want to see triumph against adversity. The conspiracy itself it quite intriguing, revealed in bits and pieces. There are some nice action set-pieces as the novel nears its conclusion.

The weaker elements involve the plight of Yakov, a young Russian boy on board a freighter bound for America. The reader can quickly surmise that he and the other youngsters on board are the unwitting donors for those wealthy enough to pay for the organs they want. I found the book pretty much ground to a halt every time the story went back on the boat. I'm guessing Gerritsen wanted to put a human face to the victims of such a conspiracy, but not much interesting ever really happens in these chapters, and maybe I'm a cold-hearted bastard, but I never really found myself caring about what happened to Yakov. He was just too much your stereotypical strong-but-cutesy child. Also, as the book races to its finish, it does leave a few questions unanswered. Why did Elaine disappear - how much did she know about what was going on? Who exactly was Tim Nicholls and what happened to him? Who put the offal in Abby's car? Why were the other transplant members killed? Did they want out? Does Abby ever get cleared and get her job back?

All in all, "Harvest" delivers the goods when it comes to medical conspiracy thrillers. Sure, the chapters with Yakov on the boat could have been trimmed, but otherwise this is an entertaining, action-based thriller with a pace that rarely flags. Nearly fifteen years have passed since "Harvest" was released, and I think Gerritsen is still at the top of her game. One of the best authors in the genre, without doubt.

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