Life Support

Tess Gerritsen, Author
Tess Gerritsen, Author Pocket Books $23 (336p) ISBN 978-0-671-55303-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Proving that the world of microbiology is a fertile medium for horror, Gerritsen follows Harvest, her bestselling hardcover debut, with this spine-tingling medical chiller. Toby Harper, an overworked 38-year-old night-shift ER physician at a private Boston hospital, inadvertently allows a 76-year-old man with strange neurological symptoms to wander off and disappear into the night. She soon finds herself caught in a web of intrigue that centers around experimental anti-aging treatments administered by Dr. Carl Wallenberg, an imperious endocrinologist at Brant Hill, a retirement community catering to aging but upscale clientele. After a second elderly man from the same residential population dies with similar symptoms, Harper, fearful of a threat to public health, demands an autopsy over Dr. Wallenberg's objections. The postmortem reveals the cause of death as Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Mad Cow) Disease, and Harper wins an ally in the medical examiner. Despite the best efforts of the Brant Hill management to thwart her, Harper uncovers a trail pointing to the ""age rejuvenation"" experiments. Suddenly but not surprisingly, her already overburdened life falls apart. A sympathetic Brant Hill doctor is murdered while trying to reach her; and she is accused of the physical abuse of her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother. Underlying the chase is a subplot involving a pair of mysteriously impregnated prostitutes. The pieces in this adeptly crafted medical Rubik's cube don't click into place until the final page. Gerritsen, who was a practicing physician, and who honed her novelistic skills writing Harlequin Romances, adeptly integrates medical details into a taut and troubling thriller. Author tour; simultaneous S&S audio release. (Sept.)
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