This is a book that is an atypical read for me. I have an extremely overactive imagination and this type of crime fiction feeds directly to the crazy in me!! But when a trusted reader friend of mine (Heather M.) suggested this book - I figured I would take a look. I am so glad that I did because this turned out to be one of the best books I have read in this entire project!
The book chronicles a day in the life of Dr. Peter Brown. It opens at 5a with Peter watching a pigeon and a rat fight... Welcome to Manhattan Catholic Hospital, where we find that Dr. Peter Brown was not exactly born with that name. He was born Pietro Brwna (Browna) and he was an assassin (known as "Bearclaw") for the mob. He was placed in Witness Protection (WITSEC) and went to medical school and was placed at the worst hospital in NYC.
In this mind-bogglingly fast day (8 hours) we skip from past to present (with a very witty use of footnotes) to learn how Peter got to here from there. We learn Peter was essentially an orphan - born to young hippie parents and turned over to grandparents who were murdered when he was 15 years old. Through some research (and an affair with a female cop) Peter finds out that the murder was a mob hit. This heinous act and the information that he learns, sets him on his path of revenge and retribution. He connects with a young man (Adam "Skinflick" Locano) who's father has strong mob connections and he becomes a fixture in the family; down the slippery slope he goes.
Without giving away too many spoilers, Dr. Brown runs into a former associate in the hospital. When the patient sees "Bearclaw" he immediate freaks out and calls for a hit. He informs the doctor that if he does not survive his surgery - men will come to kill him! This is problematic on so many levels - the first being that the former associate has signet cell (hardcore) cancer and the survival rate is very low, the second being Dr. Brown has been compromised in the hospital that was specifically chosen for the fact that mob guys do not go there, and the final and the scariest is the fact that the person the associate calls to place the hit is the very person that Dr. Brown had to give up in order to make it into the WITSEC program! Let the race begin - it is now time to "Beat The Reaper"!
I had a hard time putting this book down - as a matter a fact, I completed a staggeringly large portion of the book in one 5-hour sitting! It is not particularly strong literature and there are some gory bits (and profane moments) - but Bazell (a doctor himself) creates a compelling protagonist you oftentimes hate more than you like. It is a mapcap thriller and at times I was laughing out loud at the absolute absurdity of the situations! If you don't like to suspend your disbelief - this one might not be the book for you, but if you can suspend it just a bit, pick this one up!