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Tampered: A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery [Hardcover]

Ross Pennie

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Book Description

May 1 2011 A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery

When a bout of food poisoning strikes a residence for lively seniors blessed with generous pensions and high-ranking political connections, Dr. Zol Szabo, public health doctor turned medical detective, assembles his investigative team. But the epidemic’s source proves elusive; the death count rises and when the scourge threatens someone close to Zol, he calls in his friend and colleague Hamish Wakefield, a microbe connoisseur with a nose for exotic diagnoses. Though Hamish uncovers other dangers, he can’t crack the puzzle, and neither can the health unit’s outbreak-hunting whiz kid. It takes the observant octogenarians to expose the deaths for what they really are: a string of murders. Fast-paced and intricately plotted, Tampered is second in a series of books to feature Dr. Zol Szabo and his quirky surrounding cast of mystery-solving public health officials.


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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this, the first book of a new series, veteran fantasy author Margaret Weis teams up with daughter Lizz for a smart, high-speed paranormal romance refreshingly free of vampires and werewolves. After a few Dark Angels escape from Hell to stir up trouble on Earth, Derek de Molay, a former Knight Templar and now a stubborn, headstrong angel, gets stuck with a less than agreeable assignment: go back to Earth on reconnaissance disguised as a mortal, complete with a real human body and orders forbidding him to use his powers. His mission is to watch over Rachel Duncan, a plucky young commodities trader in Chicago who's just become involved with a mysterious, charismatic and very wealthy client named Andreas Zanus. Soon it becomes clear that Zanus is one of the Dark Angels, and his designs on Rachel aren't exactly romantic. With a playful sense of humor, a page-turning plot that keeps Rachel and Derek just close enough to throw off sparks, a tightly constructed supernatural world and plenty of suspense, readers will have a devil of a time waiting for the next installment. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Tampered, set in Hamilton, Ont., proves Pennie – McMaster professor and practising physician – is no one-book wonder. . . .This one is a good weekend book." —www.TheGlobeAndMail.com (May 6, 2011)


"Pennie builds tension perfectly, grabbing readers from the first page and keeping them entranced, both with the story itself and with nagging worries about the safety of the food they eat. All the characters . . . are realistically portrayed, their actions and emotions well matched with both their personalities and the plot. Must reading for fans of Robin Cook and Peter Clement."  —Booklist


"Canadian physician Pennie's mystery debut introduces a winning protagonist, an Ontario public health doctor and former chef . . . The appealing supporting cast includes a gorgeous female PI. Pennie, an infectious-disease specialist, makes the medical jargon accessible."  —Publishers Weekly


"Perhaps this sort of deliciously morbid thriller is becoming our particular gift to the genre. First came Montreal’s Kathy Reichs and her books about a forensic anthropologist (which form the basis of the TV series Bones). Now comes Dr. Pennie and his insight into the world of exotic cooties. Canada may not have given the world a lot of action heroes. But we sure know how to give it the creeps."  —National Post


"The prose in this new series goes down as smoothly as the fine scotch favored by the lead character, Dr. Zol Szabo." —New York Journal of Books (May 1, 2011)


"Pennie's plot has a winning cast of players and a plot with delicious, unpredictable twists, ending in a riveting finale. Tampered is the second book in a Dr. Zol Szabo trilogy. The first, Tainted, was published in 2009. I'm looking forward to No. 3." —Waterloo Region Record (August 27, 2011)

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally we have realistic disease-outbreak fiction Nov. 2 2013
By Christopher Bronson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Dr. Pennie is a retired infectious disease specialist. The strength of his storytelling lies largely in his ability to depict the workings of clinical medicine and practical epidemiology in a realistic yet entertaining way. This is in contrast to some of the “big name” authors in the sub-genre of medical fiction who take a great deal of literary license in creating a health care delivery model that bears little resemblance to reality. As an American M.D. student, I find this highly refreshing. My prediction is that Dr. Pennie will only get better at the craft as he continues, and may someday find himself on a big name best-seller list.

In Tampered, the gourmet chef and single-father turned health investigator Zol Szabo, M.D. investigates a series of gastroenteritis outbreaks at a luxury nursing home in Ontario, Canada. Alongside him are several of the characters we met in the first installment of the Zol Szabo series (Tainted), including Dr. Hamish Wakefield, the overly sensitive but highly effective diagnostician, and Colleen the Australian P.I. and new love interest to Szabo. Szabo’s team does a thorough investigation of the nursing home which initially turns up nothing obvious. Outbreaks of diarrheal illness and facility-wide quarantine are relatively common, and it’s not rare for the evasive microbial culprits of such events to remain uncovered even after a detailed investigation. Unfortunately for Szabo, however, is the fact that the outbreaks keep reoccurring and the aunt of the Canadian Prime Minister eventually succumbs to the mysterious illness. Szabo is told by his politically sensitive superiors that he’d better get to the bottom of things right quick or his days as the chief health department bureaucrat are numbered.

Overall, this book was just as entertaining as the first in the Szabo series. Before getting into some of my criticisms with the narrative, I should first state that while the book is relatively mild in terms of violence and gory detail including the depiction of various diseases and their sequela, there is some adult content (i.e. the potential hazards of being propositioned in the bathroom of a gay bar).

As I said in my review of the last novel, I wasn’t particularly fond of the side-story with Colleen (or Colleen in general). I don’t really buy an un-armed 5 foot tall blonde with no physical defense training or investigative background as an effective private eye. My other criticism concerning the dialogue structure (mentioned in my review of the previous novel) also still stands. While definitely improved, I still feel that the dialogue is somewhat unnatural, and the way it is written makes it hard to achieve and maintain the level of emotion the author tries to evoke with each character-to-character interaction. Less descriptive detail about what the individual characters are thinking and doing with their body language while engaged in conversation would make the story flow better in my opinion.

As to the entertainment value of the story, there are many plot twists to be had as investigative leads are run down and the reader is left guessing all the way till the end. I wouldn’t say that the story progressed in a highly predictable fashion like most novels of this kind. I had to laugh when fictional I.D. specialist Dr. Wakefield says that nosocomial diarrhea in the elderly is due to C. difficile until proven otherwise. The whole “it’s ___ until proven otherwise” is a classic assertion made by academic attendings in all medical specialties, at least here in the USA. And it isn’t said with arrogance, by the way.

The believability of the storyline is due to the fact that Dr. Pennie understands (as do all physicians worth their salt) that diagnosis of a specific set of symptoms should first be subject to the Occam’s razor test. In cheesy “plague”/disease-outbreak fiction (and television), you will see doctors who immediately jump to the most rare etiology imaginable. Worse than that is when a rare agent of infectious disease presents itself with non-hallmark symptomology in the entire patient population. This malpractice of medical fiction oftentimes doesn’t even go by unnoticed to the lay reader. With Dr. Pennie, it seems that even the everyday, boring corruption of the government-run Canadian health care system is portrayed in a manner that is not only accurate but distilled into a fictional set of consequences for the everyday physician.

Overall, I recommend this book to fans of mystery thrillers and medical fiction. It’s realistic, it’s fun, and you won’t be primed to believe fairy tales about the realities of infectious disease and clinical medicine.
4.0 out of 5 stars THis is the second in a series ,I look forward to the next one Sept. 1 2013
By M. Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I do not usually read mysteries but I met the author and decided to read his books.I was very pleasantly surprised.It has interesting scientific detail and kept my interest right to the end.His characters are well developed and the. " mysteries" are believable.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Another fabulous medical thriller from Ross Pennie May 18 2013
By Linnea Carlson-Sabelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tampered, the second book in Ross Pennie's charming Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Thriller series, opens in Camelot Lodge, a mansion converted into an elite retirement residence where Zol's ex-wife's gandfather, Art, resides. Two of the 38 residents have died from exploding diarrhea and headache. The hunt is on for microbes or toxins that have contaminated the food.

The series features Dr. Zol Szabo, a fictitious infectious disease specialist as he, his colleagues and Camelot's residents track down the cause of a frightening epidemic. The plot twists and turns so many times I read the book twice in a row to grasp the intricacies of all of its complexities. The descriptions are deliciously witty really bring the scenes and the characters alive.

With this book, Dr. Pennie (author), delights the heart, challenges the mind, and elevates the soul. My heart was delighted as diversity of age, race, culture, physical handicaps, homosexuality are honored and understanding and caring relationships among all the players--including the "villains" is modeled. My mind was challenged as I appreciated Pennie's special gift to harnesses the vicarious power of story to enlighten the reader/listener to public health issues and motivate change toward healthy behaviors, both personal and social. My soul was elevated as the mystery unravels in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada the birthplace of my grandmother and father -- a real city I visited often as a child. I ordered the easy read Large print copy to donate to the library of the elite retirement residence Westchester Canterbury in Richmond Virginia where my mother resides.
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