Tampered: A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery Hardcover – May 1 2011
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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.)
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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.
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.