A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TRAUMA by dynamic duo, Michael and Daniel Palmerdelivers a riveting page-turner suspense thriller of conspiracy, corruption, murder, and greed-- into the world of PTSD, DBS, VA, and the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr. Carrie Bryant, a fourth year resident rotating through Boston Community Hospital (BCH) would be assisting chief resident with a young mother’s surgery, a tumor pressed upon the top of the brain on the right side. BCH served the poor and uninsured and she felt proud to be a part of that mission, but lack of funding was a constant frustration. The hours were long, the demands exhausting, but Carrie never complained as she felt she was getting the best opportunity to hone her skills and patients, could get exceptional medical care even without the great insurance.
Carrie knew one thing about surgery that no matter how routine or simple it seemed, nothing was guaranteed. Anything could go wrong. Surgeons were not, in Carrie’s opinion, like normal people. They were more like clutch shooters who took the ball with three seconds left and the basketball game on the line. Difficult times seemed to bring out the best in their cool.
However this particular surgery came with gruesome complications and then shortly after she had to assist with another surgery, with a lack of sleep, exhaustion, an incorrect viewing of the MRI, time constraints, pressure, and mistakes were made; life-altering mistakes. Her father, an internist at Mass General, had warned her about the rigors of residency, but his description paled in comparison with the real thing.
Next we are introduced to Steve Abington, living in homeless shelters and on the streets, in Philadelphia, suffering from PTSD, back from Afghanistan. He had enough of the streets, getting robbed, the cold and the beatings. He used to be somebody—a staff sergeant in the US army, a husband and a father. He had threatened their lives, been violent, rarely sober, and he blamed the wound in his mind. Not a single drop of his blood had ever spilled in combat, but he was broken all the same, injured with scars and haunted. All he could focus on now was survival. Food, shelter, money. He had to get a plan. A bank robbery seemed a simple solution without hurting anyone; however, something happens in the process which turns into his worst nightmare ever.
With the hospital problems, legal forces are called in, pending law suits to counteract, and settlements to be made. Carrie decides to turn in her resignation. Devastated, she packs up her apartment, and with no income and tons of student loans to repay, moves in with her parents, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Howard and Irene now in their sixties, her dad a physician at Mass General and her mom a speech pathologist at a nursing center.
Her brother Adam, suffering from PTSD, who gets angry at the drop of a hat, and unable to hold down a job is also back living at home. Her family is supportive, and agrees to her moving in until she figures out what she will do with her life- she has no other choice. Adam’s commitment to the military had ended years ago, but in his mind, the war raged on. She knew the old Adam was still in there somewhere.
Next we are introduced to David Hoffman, investigative reporter who loves dangerous assignments, though he prefers politics to platoons. At age thirty--two and single he has traveled the world. He was a stringer. He had built his career working as a freelancer, giving up a regular salary in exchange for an opportunity to cover stories that actually interested him. Most of these places were in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. He was kidnapped for three weeks and finally escaped. He was able to get plenty of work for stringer jobs for a while, and now he was working for a local newspaper. He is writing a piece on PTSD. He is unsure he will ever have a Pulitzer, however, he will do his best and talk to some vets; However, he never would have dreamed what the search of one story would lead to, and the danger; he may just win that Pulitzer in the good old US.
Carrie is devastated, trying to figure out what she will do with her life in the interim, when her father comes home with a possible opportunity, as she knows he must be discouraged for her parents to work so hard and giving them a good education to find both of their grown children, back at home once again. Her father knows she is a gifted neurosurgeon with only one more year to complete her residency and everyone makes mistakes - all doctors are human.
Her father tells her about someone he met and a new program for Parkinson’s disease and a treatment with the combination of DBS. A surgical treatment involving the implantation of a brain pacemaker and wires that deliver electrical impulses to targeted areas of the brain. It is used to treat movement disorders such as Parkinsons, but researchers and clinicians were exploring other applications, including treatments for OCD, major depression, and chronic pain. She was not particularly interested in Parkinson as she is a neurosurgeon, and her father realized it was less glamorous, but given her situation, urged her to speak with the people anyway.
David and Carrie meet when David comes to interview Adam, and Adam not is not so cordial, giving David a bloody nose; however, his visit gives David and Carrie a chance to get to know one another and she is excited about his passion, reminding her of her former self, so agrees to go speak with Dr. Alistair Finley at the VA hospital. She let him know of the incident which derailed her and her reason for resignation. He was excited about the DBS program and offered her a position. After all, a stint with the VA would increase her chances of getting back into a formal neurosurgery program while learning about brain diseases she would not normally deal with.
While Carrie had come to the VA to recover from a devastating professional setback of her own, this procedure might be a way to truly help people, whose minds had been turned into a daily nightmare. Dr. Alistair Finley hires her with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funds for an experimental program using DBS (deep brain stimulation) to treat vets with PTSD. She was delighted, as a few weeks prior their current DBS surgeon Sam Rockwell was in a terrible car accident when returning from his vacation home in Maine and he was currently in a coma. She had her medical license and she would be paid under private funding, as they were looking at using DBS to cure PTSD, not to treat it. She would be taking over Sam’s position.
Soon after starting her new position, all is not as it appears. The surgery goes well; Steve is her first patient. However, when she goes in to check on her patient afterwards, things are not as they should be, and he is repeating things, and she does not know if she did something wrong or what the heck is going on.
Another strange thing, the head administrator tells her she is not to see patients post-op under any circumstance. Her work was done. She is unfamiliar with this procedure and format, as she prides herself in her work, and always makes sure to followup on the patient’s progress. When the same thing happens to her next patient, she is very alarmed. Then they both go missing. Like disappeared from the hospital, like they never existed. What has she gotten herself involved in?
Carrie is informed if she does not follow the rules this woman can fire her and then she has nothing. She has to get to the bottom of this madness. They seem happy with her work, but not to do anything further. She does not want to operate on any other person, until she knows what is going on. She cannot tell her immediate boss of her suspicions, nor her parents, or of course not her brother. Carrie turns to David, for support, and explains off the record what is happening. He urges her to stay in place as they have to learn more and gather information. If there is a conspiracy of some sort. Of course, David knows how to plant devices and get into buildings with the best of them and he loves the challenge. The closer they get to discovering the truth, Carrie’s life is in immediate danger. Someone is out to stop her.
Some man is following her when she is running in the park (this was so intense), someone runs her off the road, and tries to kill her, next while sleeping in the hospital between shifts, someone tries to smother her with a pillow. Each time she barely escapes her life. When she learns Sam is awake from his coma, she has to get to him, to see what he knows about this program and what is happening to the patients? What are they doing to these men after surgery? Could there be insiders pretending to be doctors and nurses getting these bodies out of the hospital, and where are they taking them and why? These poor men have enough problems with PTSD without adding to their problems.
TRAUMA is one riveting, fast-paced medical thriller with a mix of psychological and crime suspense mystery. The character development is excellent with plenty of evil, and humor; loved the two strong main characters, Carrie and David, for a winning combination. With twists and turns around every corner, a compelling and terrifying thriller which is the best of Daniel and Michael. For fans of the book or the movie, Extreme Measures, a sure to enjoy TRAUMA.
At the time of his death, Michael Palmer apparently was working on the manuscript of Trauma,which would have been his 20th novel. Working through his grief, Daniel Palmer did what authors do best—he took over Trauma to finish the novel for his dad. Being the talented author, and firsthand knowledge of his father’s writing style, Trauma was born- the first collaboration.Michael Palmer’s last novel, Resistant, was released in May 2014, after his death.
A remarkable and compelling tribute to much loved, Michael Palmer. Daniel, you never cease to amaze me-your dad would be so proud, as you continue his legacy!
On a personal note:
I am currently in "Thriller Book Lover Heaven,"
Top 30 Books of 2015
already shaping up nicely
with my Top 6 (in no certain order):
Daniel and Michael Palmer-Trauma
Daniel Palmer-Constant Fear
Paul Cleave-Trust No One
Andrew Neiderman-Judgement Day
Greg Iles-The Bone Tree
Michael Robotham-Life or Death