* Prices may differ from that shown
Tess Gerritsen is one of my favourite authors she can somehow manage to pull you into the story and you can't wait to turn the page to find out what will happen next. I normally stick to the Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli series of books. However I was in my local charity shop and I found Life Support, I couldn't resist after reading the back cover.
Just to note that if you aren't interested in medical/surgical matters than you probably won't like this novel as it it a Medical Thriller.
The plot is as follows...
Dr Toby Harper is working the night shift in the ER at Springer Hospital when a man is admitted with a possible infection in his brain. He doesn't seem to be responding to treatment and just before he is taken for a scan he disappears. Toby feels responsible as he walked out of the ER on her watch so she tries to find him. In doing so she finds a second patient with the exact same infection and soon a pattern emerges at a local retirement home. Whilst trying to discover the truth Toby meets a pregnant sixteen year old prostitute and the story takes an unexpected turn.
The story flows very well and the characters are developed just right, they are not rushed but also not dragged out either. The character of Toby is likeable and you feel sorry for her as she finds herself in danger for just pursuing the truth. The plot has been well thought out and is very detailed especially with medical procedures. Which again may bore some people and put them off. It didn't really bother me as even in Tess Gerritsen's other novels there is still a fair bit of medical jargon.
There are plenty of twists and turns and some very suspense filled moments. The book deals with some interesting issues and it shows the lengths some people will go to in the way of medical advancements and research.
Overall Life Support is a good read but I do have to admit that it isn't my favourite of Tess Gerritsens's. However it still managed to hold my attention and managed to be full of suspense, at times I couldn't put it down. The ending works well if a little on the predictable side,
I read this book a while ago, having never heard of Tess Gerritsen, and not even really being a fan of the genre she writes in. I suppose you could file it under medical crime thriller, if you wanted, and while crime and thriller regularly appear in my list of favourite books, I have never ventured into the medical side of reading.
Gerritsen is a doctor herself, and so I was expecting a book full of jargon and whole sections that would go completely above my head. However, what she presents us with is very much a medical crime thriller for the layman, with no overwhelmingly long and descriptive medical passages. Life Support essentially deals with an illegal experiment into finding the Fountain of Youth, an elixir that can reduce the ageing process. It takes its main character, Dr Toby Harper, and shows her to be a headstrong woman who looks out for her patients.
Working a night shift in the ER at Springer hospital, she becomes intrigued when a confused and naked elderly man is brought in by the police. The man clearly has no idea what is going on, and she finds out he lives in a swanky retirement area. However, this is not the end of it, and as similar events occur to others, Toby finds herself embroiled in a curious experiment that has resulted in a strain of Creutfeld-Jakb Disease (CJD) in various subjects.
The remainder of the book become an incredibly tense thriller, and one with a clever and twisting plot. The fact that all this evidence is uncovered very early on led me to believe that there wasn't really anything else to uncover. I suppose I took on a rather negative and unenthusiastic approach to reading the rest of it, but after only a few chapters I found myself once more digging in and not wanting to put the book down.
Gerritsen's writing style is rather clever. She manages to include the important medical detail without overwhelming and alienating a vast majority of the ignorant public. Her handling of CJD, which we know more commonly as Mad Cow's Disease, is quite typical of an American viewpoint, which, in comparison to here in the UK, hasn't had the exposure we experienced. It is quite a patriotic and defensive way of dealing with it, and at times I was a bit annoyed at how it seemed to make fun of the Brits' cows all being mad and so are the people, etc etc. It bugged me a little, particularly as it was a medical professional writing the book, but ultimately it's fiction, and tries to appeal to a public who maybe think along the same lines.....
What Gerritsen also does very well is include a separate, yet relevant, subplot, involving the teenage prostitute Molly Picker. Molly is pregnant, and wrestles with her hormones. Gerritsen portrays this character exceptionally well, and the tension is unbearable as she is passed from person to person, and meeting to meeting, with reassurances seeming hollow and fake. You wonder what is going to happen to her and her baby, if there are deeper things going on here, and constantly the method in which she became pregnant is called into question. You really wonder, what with the whol experimental side of the main plot, what exactly is going on, and it is tense and extremely well integrated into the book.
The merging of the two plots with the expreimental and scientifically medical side of things is probably the main appeal of the book, and how two cleverly interwoven storylines can grip a reader so thoroughly. Despite my misgivings in the middle part of the book, it's a thoroughly enjoyable thriller to read. The characterisation is very good, and while the book does overly focus on Toby, it isn't so much of a bad thing as Gerritsen has created an extremely accessible character here, one that is is pleasing to read about, and one that is quite universal in terms of being understood as a male reader.
As a man, I often find it hard to completely associate with books where a female is the lead character. This is not chauvinism or sexism, it's merely that I cannot associate with being a woman!!! However, the character of Toby and her thoughts and actions, are all instinctive and laudable, and it is the character's professionalism and human instincts that are appealing, and not her female actions and emotions and feelings for various men she may come across. In this respect, I found that I actually could relax and enjoy the story from the main character's point of view, even though it was a woman. I often have trouble with other authors' female leads, such as Kathy Reichs' Tempe Brennan or Faye Kellerman's Cindy Decker. I find it easier where male authors are concerned, such as James Patterson's Lindsay Boxer, or even when Sebastian Faulks writes from a female perspective.
But Gerritsen manages to appeal very well to me as a male reader, and I applaud her for this. Overall, Life Support is a very well written book, and one that is hard to put down. At times, the subject matter can get a bit confusing, and there are some unpleasant moments. It has occasions of violence, but none moreso than the usual thrillers you expect to see on the shelves. I recommend reading this, and while it wasn't my favourite thriller, and there are other authors out there that I prefer reading, she is definitely one I keep in mind, and always show an interest if I come across one of hers when looking for a new book.
Dr Toby Harper is a doctor in the ER of Springer Hospital, she's fairly happy with her lot in life although as with us all there are things she would change if she could. Toby works the night shift and on the night it all goes wrong everything is normal until the police being in an elderly man who is naked and confused. When Toby is called out to a major emergency elsewhere in the ER the elderly man somehow escapes and walks out into the freezing night, still naked and sure to die if not found quickly.
The appearance and subsequent disappearance of the elderly man draws Toby into a crisis that she could never have imagined in a million years. As she becomes aware of other men from the same retirement complex having the same symptoms she realises that something strange is happening up there and sets out to investigate using her medical knowledge and relationships around the medical profession to help her.
I thought Life Support by Tess Gerritsen was a fantastic read, I got through my paperback in just three days because it had such a gripping storyline that I found hours would pass and I could not put the book down.
The storyline is very strong I think and it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that medical professionals are experimenting on rich elderly men in order to discover the fountain of youth, the problem being that unclean tissue was used on a batch of experiments leading to these men contracting Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. CJD is the human form of Mad Cow disease which we in the UK are unfortunately highly aware of, but Life Support is written by an American author for an American audience so expect plenty of 'The US herd is clean' and 'The English have trouble with CJD originating from their cattle' kind of comments. Very annoying from a patriotic perspective, but ultimately true.
The disease itself isn't dwelled upon too much in the novel and I enjoyed the distinct lack of medical jargon, I enjoy medical novels but tend to stick to a handful of authors who I know aren't going to insert complete sections of doctor-speak to baffle the reader. Tess Garritsen is a doctor herself but she has thankfully resisted the urge to show off her medical knowledge, instead concentrating on the characters and settings of the novel.
The characters I thought were realistic and well developed. Toby Harper was by far my favourite character in the book, which is a good thing really because there is rarely a page in the book where she doesn't feature. She is very likeable and it comes across that Toby wants to get to the bottom of the CJD mystery because she cares about the individual patients and not for her own personal satisfaction.
Other characters flit in out and out of the pages, they are all likeable but we do not really get much background about them in order to form a proper opinion on their personalities and traits. I liked the character of Dan Dvorak, a state pathologist who gets close to Toby, because although he was quite a stern and uninspired man common sense prevailed and he started to look beyond the evidence of the autopsies he was performing. He actually ends up being an important part of the novel even though he doesn't appear very much through the book.
The other main character is quite a sad one. Molly Picker is a 16 year old prostitute who finds herself pregnant and fighting to keep her pimp from forcing her into an abortion. She is in the midst of this horrific CJD storyline but is so uneducated and full of self importance that she doesn't realise it until it's too late. I felt a strength behind this character that I had not been expecting and thought the way she handled herself through the experience was very well written and the author showed a very caring side in how she decided to develop Molly's character.
I've never read anything by Tess Garritsen before so had no preconceived ideas about which direction this book was going to take. I like the author Robin Cook who writes these kinds of medical dramas and Life Support is very similar to his work, although obviously this was more up to date than a lot of Cooks work which was written in the 80's when medical science was not so advanced. Life Support follows the same kind of path as many other medical dramas - overworked doctor discovers a catastrophe in the system, puts her own life in jeopardy to solve the mystery and, of course, puts her career on the line as she bumps heads with higher doctors who want to stop her meddling.
The thing which sets Life Support apart from all the other medical novels I've read is the fact that Tess Garristen has created quite a web of threads throughout the book so the storyline hints at how it's going to turn out, but at every chapter another character or event is introduced that leaves the reader constantly re-evaluating the who's and why's of the novel. I had the ending half worked out but there was also parts which, although minor, were important to the story and I had not seen them coming so I had to keep changing my opinions.
If you like medical crime novels then I thoroughly recommend you read Life Support. It's very well written and the author understands that we are not all doctors so doesn't overwhelm the reader with medical-speak, but once the impact of the CJD experiments becomes clear you will feel chilled but all you can really do is hope that nothing like this happens when YOU are old.
You can buy a paperback copy of Life Support from Amazon for £5.49, or your local library should be able to get you a copy. Otherwise do as I did and check the charity shops, my copy cost me just 49p from PDSA and that is definitely money well spent.
One of the first TESS GERITSEN medical thrillers ever to be published (I understand she wrote a few Mills 'n' Boon type novels under a pseudonym), LIFE SUPPORT is an interesting and heady mix of conspiracy and E/R drama that starts at a fast pace and barely lets up for even a second all the way to the end. Toby Harper is a night-shift E/R doc who comes across a couple of seemingly related cases of an advanced viral infection of the brain but faces a stonewall when she tries to investigate how her two patients are connected. Before long, her personal life is also in turmoil when she is accused of harming her elderly, alzheimers suffering mother but pleas that she is being set up for coming too close to the truth fall on deaf ears. But what has all this to do with a sixteen year old prostitute, pregnant under mysterious circumstances and can Toby actually trust anyone around her?
Weighed down with all manner of medical jargon and featuring some quite graphic set pieces, LIFE SUPPORT nonetheless is a pleasant enough read but nothing that will blow you away. It's style feels very formulaic and highly reminiscent of the kind of thriller ROBIN COOK wrote in the eighties and nineties. In fact, if you have read plenty of COOK's novels, you may well find you don't need to read this as it is certainly a case of no thrills, no surprises and a hell of a lot of de ja vu!!!
To be fair, it is pretty short and, like all GERITSEN's books is defenitely an easy read (if I hadn't been reading this between shifts at work, I could have finished this in a day) but don't expect anything ground-breaking and her Jane Rizzoli books are certainly much, much improved from this. Still, it's worth a go if you see it about cheap though if it's in a charity shop or something, I probably wouldn't pay more than £1 for it.
Like a bag of chips off the market, it's okay but that doesn't really amount to much when there is sooo much competition out there that can do this sort of stuff so much better!