Review: “Miracle Cure,” Michael Palmer

Pros: Plenty of twists and turns
Cons: Hero is somewhat repugnant; overblown/cartoonish elements
Rating: 2 out of 5

Brian Holbrook lost his medical license over prescription painkillers, and even though he’s clean, no one will hire him. When he finally gets a shot, it seems like a dream come true: he’s working on a prestigious study of a very promising new heart medication. Even better, that same medication might be just in time to save his father’s life. Unfortunately it doesn’t take long before details start looking suspicious to him. Only problem is, as far as he can tell the medication really is a wonder drug–so why would anyone need to doctor the results?

 

I’ve started checking ebooks out of our local library, and have ended up reading a few books I might not have otherwise. Books such as Robin Cook’s Abduction (oh dear) and Preston and Child’s Brimstone (fun). Now I’ve finished Michael Palmer’s Miracle Cure; it landed somewhere between the two in quality.

Part of the problem is Brian himself. When he has trouble getting his father into the study with the medication he wants to try, he leaps to planning to steal it without a second thought. He plans to substitute a placebo for other patients’ medications, something that we’re briefly informed “went against every instinct”, and yet there’s nothing in the actual events to indicate that it bothers him at all. No prevaricating. No agonizing. Yet once he encounters the tiniest of irregularities in a patient’s tests we’re expected to believe that he has suddenly sprouted scruples that won’t be silenced. I found Brian to be at best unlikable, and at worst morally reprehensible.

There’s an odd split among the secondary characters. On the one hand, a couple of those characters get all the best lines and have far more personality than our supposed hero. On the other hand, several of the other side characters are cartoonish and ridiculous. A sex-crazed nurse rubs her breasts all over our hero, and there’s a bad guy who wouldn’t have been out of place twirling a mustache. The meet-sexy between our hero and an FDA doctor he’s attracted to is really heavy-handed.

The plotting is fairly complex and snowballs nicely. There are some events that surprised me, which is nice–usually with flaws like those above I’d also expect a completely predictable progression. The tension is down-to-the-wire. Unfortunately the other flaws overshadowed it, and I didn’t really enjoy the book very much.

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