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DO NO HARM by Robert Pobi: Book Review

The title of this novel is a quotation loosely translated from the Hippocratic oath that physicians take.  But what happens when someone is harming the physicians?

Lucas Page, astrophysicist, professor, and former FBI agent, is himself a testament to the skills of doctors.  Gravely wounded on more than one occasion, he has an artificial arm, an artificial leg, and only one eye.  But that does not hinder his incredible mathematical facility, his almost instantaneous ability with statistics to create a pattern that makes sense of seemingly random events.

His wife Erin is a doctor, and on this night the couple is going to a charity dinner in support of some of the city’s underfunded hospitals.  Knowing what is to come after the dinner is served, there is a sadness in the room because of the news that one of the city’s most respected orthopedic surgeons committed suicide the night before.

The dinner’s final presentation is a montage of New York City’s medical personnel who died since the previous year.  The list is long, incredibly long, with doctors dying from accidents, suicides, cancer, heart disease, and other causes.  As Lucas and Erin are walking home, they talk about the large number of people whose photos had been shown at the event.  Erin asks her husband about the chances of her knowing so many people who died during a such a brief period of time.  Lucas doesn’t answer, but he thinks that the chances are zero.

The next morning one of his graduate assistants gives him the data that Lucas requested after he returned home from the fundraiser.  It consists of thirty pages, one for each death.  As he reviews the information, it confirms his conclusions–each was a homicide.

Lucas goes to his former FBI colleague, Brett Kehoe, with the data and his belief that every death, whether its cause was determined to be illness, accident, or self-inflicted, was in fact a murder.  Brett is disbelieving, even as Lucas explains,”A lack of pattern is a dead giveaway that you’re looking at a pattern.”

Continuing his explanation to a still-unconvinced Kehoe, Lucas points out that each of these deaths took place on a Tuesday and during an activity that was a regular one for the victim–jogging, riding a motorcycle, fishing, and so on.  Lucas states that the doctors were going through routines that were easy for the killer to learn about, and that made it easy to commit the crimes.  The agent asks how is it possible that these deaths were missed by the New York City police and fire departments, the coroner’s office, the families of the dead, and other agencies?  How can they all be wrong and Lucas be right?

The bodies keep piling up, and Lucas is determined to investigate despite the initial skepticism of the FBI.  Do No Harm is an incredible thriller, and Lucas Page is definitely a unique protagonist.

You can read more about Robert Pobi at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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