The Society Hardcover – Aug 17 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Palmer's 11th medical thriller (Fatal; etc.) takes careful and bloody aim at the managed care industry, beginning with the murder of several loathsome CEOs of HMOs in Massachusetts. Dr. Will Grant is a talented and caring physician in the Boston area who works long hours and hates the unfair and obstructive practices of the big insurance companies. Patty Moriarity is a rookie state cop whose first big case is investigating the deaths of the health care vultures. After some early research, Patty suspects Will, but soon enough that's all straightened out and they're smooching on the couch. After Will is drugged and collapses during a delicate operation, things get rough: he's kicked out of his hospital for drug abuse and sued. Next he's being tortured, while Patty, shot after attempting to save the boorish chauvinist detective who has taken over her case, lies in a coma. The action is a bit preachy in the beginning, but once Palmer gets all his characters in place, the suspense builds. He wraps it all up with a slam-bang battle between our love-smitten duo and some extremely nasty health insurer executives and their loyal, gun-toting minions.
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"'Gripping suspense, likeable heroes and hateful villains keep the pulse pounding'" Publishers Weekly "'Guaranteed to terrify anyone... Dynamite plot... fast-paced and engrossing'" Washington Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As with Dr. Robin Cook's tales, we feel Palmer is on more solid ground when describing the problems the docs face and telling us what really happens in the field than he is when moving people about and using guns and generally outwitting or outrunning guys who kill for fun and profit. While we have to suspend reality a little to believe the otherwise terrifying circumstances near the book's end, the stories about HMO abuse are only too real, as Palmer recruited all of those from true-life examples of readers of his web site. A somewhat overly righteous call for a socialized medicine scheme similar to Canada's was hardly fleshed out enough to warrant the mention that it got -- we hear too many stories of Canadians crossing the line to get "real" care to just swallow that one wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, Palmer has crafted yet another in his provocative line of thrillers -- one sure to wow both his fan club and the average reader alike. Enjoy!
Dr. Will Grant is a workaholic. He works almost eighty hours a week as a surgeon and an ER doctor at his hospital. He does this to make ends meet, having to pay child support for his twins (a boy and a girl), whom he adores and alimony to their mother and his ex-wife, Maxine. Despite this drain on his time and finances, Will manages to support his pet projects, a mission style soup kitchen for the poor and homeless called the Open Hearth Kitchen and The Hippocrates Society, a collection of various medical practitioners who have banded together the counter the creeping influence of the dreaded heath management organizations.
All in all, Will, who is widely respected in his field and admired for his sensitivity for his patient's welfare, has a pretty normal and uneventful life. That is until he is cajoled into representing the Society, as a last minute replacement, in a scheduled debate with Boyd Halliday, the CEO of a large and growing HMO, Excelsis Health Care. From then on his life seems to unravel. First he meets an attractive plain clothes police officer, Patty Moriarity, who is investigating a series of homicides of CEOs of three HMOs believed to be the work of a disgruntled patient or relative. At first Moriarity is attracted to Will but after she checks up on him she thinks he may possibly be involved in the murders. Then the killer calls him on his private number, congratulating Will on his skill in the debate. Then the ceiling caves in when he passes out, literally head first, into the patient's newly opened incision during surgery.
Will wakes up in intensive care and everybody is very cool to him. When his Doctor, an old friend, comes in, he tells Will that he tested positive for a massive dose of Fantanyl, an extremely dangerous and addictive drug. Will of course, is incredulous but he and nobody else can think of how it could have been administered to him. He knows he didn't do it but it seems all his co-workers and most of his friends have made up their mind, in fact his medical license is suspended and he's banned from the hospital.
As the story continues Will becomes the murder suspect for the serial killings, though he's never charged. He has become entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the murders and he and Moriarity wind up fighting for their very lives.
I have read four or five novels by Michael Palmer and have enjoyed each one. The Society was not the best one but it was a very good medical thriller that had me flipping them pages. Palmer's writing style is very smooth, with just a touch of humor. He does a good job of writing his novels without going into Doctor speak but occasionally he does go into his physician mode, whereas I have a little trouble understanding but this is minimal and I simply nod my head and go on.
The story was well written and flowed well. There was always something happening in this fast moving, fast reading novel, which made it impossible for the story to become boring. Palmer developed the characters well and you really empathized with the protagonist, Will Grant. There were several antagonists of varying degrees to dilike as well. One was Detective Brasco, an obvious chauvinist, who was in charge of the investigation, who was full of himself but couldn't seem to get out of his way. At one point approaching the end of the book Moriarity saves his life and almost gets killed herself. That was the last we heard of Brasco and I would liked to have seen some sort of resolution between he and Moriarity but it was not to be.
If you like medical thrillers then this is right up your alley. Nobody, except maybe Robin Cook, does them better. Final rating 4.3 stars
This book is hard to get through. The last 100 pages have picked up, but the first couple hundered pages were kinda painful. The characters are fairly unlikeable. I don't feel any sort of connection to any of them, I'm not rooting for them, and I definitely don't feel any chemistry between Will and Patty. There are also a few more characters than usual, and I feel that Palmer, in an attempt to broaden his story arc, ended up hurting himself. There were so many characters, he didn't really take too much time with any of them. (the possible exception being, in my opinion, the Davenport widow)
As other reviewers have said, his plots appear to be more cut and paste all the time. Insert name, insert town (if it happens to be one of the few outside of White Memorial), and use the same story as the last one. But I can deal with that.
This book, however, fell short of it's mark...at least in my opinion. I will finish it, out of deference to my esteem for his previous books, rubbernecking, whatever. But I may pay a little more attention to reviews of the next one.
The plot was lame; the characters terribly stereotyped.
Quite a superficial book, perhaps written more as propaganda rather than for literary purposes.
Palmer could have written a decent book had he really chosen to explore the abuses of the HMO system.
Instead Palmer chose to write something on the order of pulp fiction that would have bored a junior high student.
While the general premise of the problems with managed health care held some interest - and made me fervently hope that the American system never extends to Australia - I thought that many elements of the story were quite unbelievable.
Hero Dr Will Grant is turned upon by colleagues and made a pariah on the strength of one supposed mistake, within hours going from well-respected surgeon to facing the prospect of losing his career and livelihood. I found it hard to believe that he could have so little opportunity to defend himself.
Police woman Patty Moriarity is one of the team investigating the murders of three principals of health care companies. Her actions/behaviour and those of her two crass immediate supervisors seem to fall outside what I understand to be normal police procedures for dealing with their duties and the public. She is ready to believe the worst of Will, to the extent of having suspicions raised on the lightest of premises and then looking for evidence to justify them. And as for Patty's superwoman act ... from death's door to almost overnight single-handedly taking down three baddies ...
The catchcry of real estate agents is location, location, location. Mine when reading a novel is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. This author fails miserably - his characters generally do not speak naturally - their conversation is stiff, stilted, formal, unrealistic. For instance, an encounter by our hero and heroine with three youths in a park is meant to be menacing, but instead is laughable for this reason. Mr Palmer should try reading his dialogue out loud - he might realise how far off the mark he is.