I once saw the librarian Nancy Pearl speak at this library, and she advised 'reading outside of one's comfort zone'. I tried recently it with Beat the Reaper
, a debut novel by Josh Bazell
, and frankly, I liked it.
Ok. To start with - I am not
a fast reader. That'll come into play at the end of this post.
Secondly, the best way to describe Beat the Reaper
is this: it's one part House
, one part Sopranos
. If that appeals to you, read on.
And ok, so I've never been much for thrillers, or crime novels...but Beat the Reaper
was pretty darn good. First of all, it met my first requirement for any book - it had me from page one. A mugging, a pigeon vs. rat smack-down, and the tables completely turned on the mugger in question...are all a part of the introduction of our protagonist, a former hit man in the witness protection program, now fulfilling his potential as a doctor. The next eight hours of his life - the scope of the novel - are critical to his survival.
What drew me
into it Beat the Reaper
was a fairly rich, quickly moving subplot...the backstory of the protagonist prior to his medical training, and the impact of the lives of others on his, rather than the impact his life had on others. It's darkly comic, especially in the abundant footnotes that explain (in sometimes almost hyper-colloquial detail) the circumstances of the plot. At other times, the footnotes are full of interesting little medical factoids that you may otherwise never have known - but which may someday come in handy at cocktail parties. The author, has a Bachelor's in writing from Brown University and an MD from Columbia University. He's now a medical resident at the University of California, San Francisco, and is working on his second novel. And he clearly has a rich imagination, in addition to, as my mother says, "knowing whereof he speaks" - at least in terms of the medical portion of this book. Almost chillingly, painfully, stunningly so, near the end of the book.
I finished this book in two days. Which is lightning speed for me!