cover image To Do No Harm

To Do No Harm

Leslie Glass, Andrew Glass. Doubleday Books, $17 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42602-2

Though this unfocused, off-kilter mystery by novelist ( Modern Love ) and playwright ( Strokes ) Glass offers shocking events--the switching, kidnapping and sale of an infant at birth--suspense is wanting until the story is well under way. While New Jersey couple Tom and Bettina Dunne await the birth of their first child, Tom's firm dispatches him to the Middle East to investigate a breakdown in its oil refineries. Tom is hospitalized there after an accident, leaving Bettina exposed to the criminal bungling of two dimwitted villains who are as thin, slippery and disposable as plastic spoons. Shoddy lawyer Peter Balkan is a drug addict desperate for cash and dope; he vows to marry gullible receptionist and nurse Isobel if she'll help drug and abduct Bettina and grab the newborn. The pace picks up when Glass documents the anguished viewpoints of the victimized Bettina and of the baby's adoptive mother, Laura, who conceals the means by which the infant came into her care. But the tension slackens when Glass drags in hospital problems that have no bearing on the plot. Overworked psychiatrist Aaron Simon worries that casual sex between staff members and patients might spread the HIV virus, while he debates ``the moral and ethical issues of doctors with AIDS.'' These red herrings reroute the readers' attention to a swarm of irrelevant minor characters, blur the tale's focus and allow the action to dawdle. (Nov.)