Harmful Intent – Book Review

A doctor gets to play God every day, one small mistake and someone’s life could be at stake. But this is one side of the suture; the other side is something we don’t get to witness, when a doctor is surrounded by malpractice cases and is losing faith over his ability to pick up a scalpel again. It is not easy to live with the fact that your hands have been responsible for someone’s death.

One malpractice suit and everything turns out to be at stake, your ability, reputation, confidence and image, it brings you down to an all time low where those who are strong snap out of it but sometimes end up in another profession altogether, very few make it through with flying colours and many go down the low road of suicide. Being a doctor is not easy, playing God is not easy. Harmful intent is a story of one such anesthesiologist who finds himself on the crossroads of giving up or finding the truth to clear his name. Harmful intent is another masterpiece from the master of medical thrillers — Robin cook.

Robin cook is an American physician who writes about novels based on medicine. He has a knack for combining the medical and thriller genre. Many of his books have been bestsellers and till now he has sold nearly 100 million copies. Robin cook’s first novel was “The year of the intern” in 1972 and since then he never looked back, till now he has written 31 novels, many of his novels have been made into movies or television series including Harmful Intent.

His novels are not casual thrillers; through them he had explored various issues such as organ donation, medical malpractice, medical tourism, concierge medicine, genetic engineering etc. Some of the ideas in the novels may seem farfetched, but you can never be sure of fiction, this is a Mad Mad World.

Mixing medical knowledge with thriller has always been a strong hold for him. But this time he took it to another level, Harmful Intent is magnificently structured, his storytelling is so influential, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between reality and fiction.
Harmful Intent is a medical thriller set in the city of Boston during the late 80’s. It is a story of an anesthesiologist, an average doctor working extra hours, putting people to sleep in a good way, never showing any signs of weakness, diligent, overall a doctor you want beside your operation table either holding a scalpel or administering an anesthetic.

In a routine caesarean, a healthy patient suffers inexplicable seizures and eventually dies after being administered a local anesthetic, her death triggers an 11 million dollar lawsuit against Dr. Jeffery Rhodes. Caught between law suits and a divorce he felt a final blow when charged with second degree murder. A man who has given up hope in his case and in life finds himself in the shoes of his old friend late Dr. Christopher Everson whose life followed the same toll – a mistake, a lawsuit, a suicide.

Kelly Everson Chris’s wife restores hope in Jeffery. Determined to prove his innocence and clear his name Jeffery a doctor turned fugitive, Janitor, investigator, researcher and lover finds himself uncovering a conspiracy behind a series of killings under the facade of malpractice cases. Romanticism, chase, murders, disguises, bounty hunters and a killer moving freely in the corridors of hospitals, this novel is a page turner keeping you hooked up to the last page. Robin Cook kept his promise of delivering one of the best medical thrillers.

The best part of the novel is that during the entire story telling this novel subtly touched many grave issues such as the vulnerability of the hospitals, with nearly everyone having access to vital drugs, all it needs is a man with intelligence and a harmful intent to adulterate the otherwise life saving medicines and how shoddy is the judicial system, all you need is a lawyer good at repartee to spin the case and make an innocent man, a second degree murderer.

The villain of the story Trent Harding has been described as a masochist maniac struggling with his sexual identity but no background has been established for the motive behind him being this way. A background explanation linking his behaviour was absent. As the story progressed some of the characters were sidelined like Jeffery’s soon to be ex wife and his lawyer. Down the pages these characters were deeply missed. However the character of Devlin a rogue turned aide has been superbly portrayed till the very end.

The climax of the story lacked  luster, scenes were beautifully portrayed, but still it could have been better. The real conspirators didn’t play much part in the story. They sat back and came into picture during the very last pages which I believe is a good thing as suspense was revealed on the second last page.

Despite a fair ending the novel is a good read overall. Written in third person, the narration is impeccable. Harmful Intent is a must read for all those who love thriller, thought it is a medical thriller, a person not acquainted with medicine won’t be bemused by medical mumbo jumbo. The novels gives a strong message that no matter what happens, giving up and running away is not the answer.

Bhanuj Saharan

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