Recent medical school graduate Liza Larkin knows something is wrong when she sees a stranger in the background of three family photos, including one from her father’s funeral. When a reverse-image search identifies Dr. Samuel Donovan, a top trauma surgeon in the Boston area, Liza switches her first-choice residency to Titus McCall Medical Center where Donovan works. Liza wants to keep an eye on this mysterious doctor and potential stalker. She can take care of herself, but she wants to protect her mother, Emily, a schizophrenic patient at nearby Home & Hearth Healing. She feels guilty about putting her mother in a psychiatric facility, but knows she could not provide adequate home-care.
Liza may be a strong woman, but she struggles with schizoid personality disorder and mourns her father, Kevin who was her best advocate. He refused to label his daughter. “You are not a list of symptoms, Liza. You are not a diagnosis. You are you, you are special,” he told her. Kevin, a rising politician, survived a shooting and immediately retired to open a food truck business, only to die from a heart attack two years later. Now Liza hears his voice in her head, guiding her decisions.
A little background information: schizoid personality disorder is not schizophrenia. It’s a condition “characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency toward a solitary or sheltered lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment and apathy.” (Wikipedia) Liza has a history of defending others with violence, but regular therapy has taught her how to overcome these tendencies and become more social. Combined with long runs and vigorous boxing workouts she manages her condition and has a small circle of friends. One concerning fact: Liza has stopped her therapy.
As Liza digs into medical records, she discovers a disturbing pattern of Donovan’s patients who suffered severe trauma but died from different causes after they recovered. Donovan’s god-like image will be hard to bring down, however, and Liza may have met her match. The closer she gets to uncovering Donovan as a murderer, the more reckless and crazed she becomes.
Wow, I really enjoyed this tightly-written story, Rubin’s latest medical/psychological thriller. Rubin does a great job with Liza’s character, who is far from perfect and sometimes makes bad decisions. Readers also learn what life is like for a first-year resident and about hospital administrative hierarchies. And through often-humorous dialogue and description, one of Rubin’s trademarks, we also get to know the side characters. As in her other books, she keeps the story current, highlighting some of society’s problems such as opiate addiction, obesity, and mental illness, as well as progress in social issues such as gay marriage.
The title is a clever play on words, referring to both doctors’ rounds and a boxing match. Donovan seems to be winning the rounds, but who will win the match?
Fatal Rounds is the first in the Liza Larkin series. I’m looking forward to the next one!
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