cover image The Fifth Vial

The Fifth Vial

Michael Palmer, Michael Palmer, . . St. Martin's, $25.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34351-4

Bestseller Palmer (The Society ) tackles the illegal transplant organ trade in his entertaining 12th medical suspense novel. What do three very different people—Harvard medical student Natalie Reyes, Chicago PI Ben Callahan and scientific genius Joe Anson—have in common? Natalie, in Brazil for a conference, is attacked, hospitalized and loses a lung; Ben gets hired to discover how a mutilated anonymous body died; Joe, the inventor of an untested medical breakthrough, is forced into an operation for his life-threatening pulmonary fibrosis. All three seek answers connected to the Whitestone Foundation, a conglomerate that's a front for the Guardians, a secret cabal of medical specialists. At a hidden hospital in the Brazilian rain forest, Natalie and Ben learn of the Guardians' insidious methods. Huge sums are at stake as the arrogant Guardians make medical decisions largely motivated by greed. The action, which begins plausibly, becomes less so as the tension builds. Still, Palmer, himself an M.D., does a good job of informing the reader on an important ethical issue. 225,000 printing; author tour. (Feb.)