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Posts Tagged ‘physician’

THE DOCTOR OF ALEPPO by Dan Mayland: Book Review

As is well known, Syria is engaged in a brutal civil war.  It began as unrest during the Arab Spring in 2011 and since 2015 has been a multi-sided conflict fought by the Syrian Armed Forces, Sunni opposition rebel groups, Salafi jihadist groups, the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with a number of countries in the region and beyond also involved.

In Dan Mayland’s novel, The Doctor of Aleppo, many of these groups converge on that city, leaving death and destruction in their wake.  A metropolis with a history dating from the sixth century B. C. E., Aleppo had rich architectural, religious, and cultural traditions.  But now, following years of war, it has become a war zone.

The novel follows three people whose lives are intertwined with the city and each other.  Samir Hasan is a dedicated doctor whose best efforts are hampered by a number of factors, including a lack of medical supplies, the near-constant bombs that go off frighteningly close to the clinic where he works, and his fears for the safety of his family.  Hannah Johnson, the daughter of an American mother and a Syrian father, is a volunteer with a small non-profit health organization.  Rahim Suleiman is a dedicated believer in the reign of Bashar al-Assad.

When Hannah’s Swedish lover Oskar is badly wounded he is taken to Hasan’s clinic and operated on by the doctor, one of only two orthopedists left in the city.  As chance would have it, Oskar is put in the same room as Adel, Suleiman’s injured son.  Hasan operates on Adel as well, and the boy is recovering when he unexpectedly dies.  Suleiman becomes convinced that his son’s death is the surgeon’s fault, and he determines to take his revenge.

The Doctor of Aleppo is so well-written and powerful that the reader will feel she/he is in the city.  At times I had to put the novel down because it was too painful to read, made especially so because the reader knows in reality this is Aleppo’s plight.  On each page there is sorrow and heartbreak for the lives that are lost in the battle for this country and this city in particular.  But there is also a sense of decency and courage as portrayed by Samir Hasan, the physician working in a clinic with minimal staff and nearly no supplies, and by Hannah, a volunteer who somehow cannot bring herself to leave this war-torn place and return to America and safety.  Even Suleiman’s desire for revenge becomes understandable when seen as the act of a grieving, bereft father.

Dan Mayland is a geopolitical forecaster with a specialty in Middle Eastern issues.  He is also the author of four books in the Mark Sava spy series.  You can read more about him 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE FIRST FAMILY by Daniel Palmer: Book Review

Imagine Susie Banks.  She’s a teenage violinist on the stage of the Kennedy Center, about to perform a solo with the National Symphony Orchestra.  She is halfway through her performance, playing perfectly as usual, when suddenly her body goes into spasms.  Her arms and legs are gesturing uncontrollably, and her instrument falls to the floor.  Several frightening moments pass, and through her tears she picks up the violin and makes her way to the wings.

In another part of Washington, Dr. Lee Blackwood is visiting a patient at MediCenter of D. C.  As he is making his rounds, a Secret Service agent comes into the room and tells Lee to follow him.  Lee’s former wife Karen is an agent, and she has asked the first lady, Ellen Hilliard, to bring Lee to the White House for a consult.

Ellen is concerned about her son Cam.  Cam has become withdrawn and moody, his complexion is ashen, he has huge circles under his eyes, and he is sweating inappropriately.  These emotional and physical symptoms are affecting his life to the point where his parents and the White House physician, Fred Gleason, fear he is depressed.  Most importantly, as far as Cam is concerned, his ability to play chess at the international level is being compromised, just in time for a major tournament he has hopes of winning.

Gleason thinks Cam should see a psychiatrist, but the teenager is insistent that his problem is physical, not mental.  Cam tells Lee that he’s not sleeping well, is tired all the time, and that his vision is sometimes blurred.  Lee agrees with Cam that the symptoms seem more physical than emotional, but the parents are conflicted about which physician to trust.

Polite battle lines are drawn between the two doctors, with nothing being decided.  Several days later, when Cam is playing a game of touch football with friends, he’s knocked out.  The White House doctor doesn’t think it’s anything more than bruising, but Karen is concerned enough to ask Lee for a diagnosis over the phone.  Hearing the concern in his ex-wife’s voice, Lee suggests bringing the boy to the MediCenter at once, which Karen does after consulting the first lady rather than Dr. Gleason.

In the meantime, Susie Banks has also been admitted to the MDC.  In what appears to the police to be a horrific accident, a faulty furnace allowed carbon monoxide into the Banks’ house, killing her parents and bringing Susie close to dying.  And now, the bizarre symptoms she had experienced at the Kennedy Center will have Lee trying to make a connection between her and Cam.

Right from the beginning Lee Blackwood’s skills are called into question by Fred Gleason.  Is it the simple jealousy of one doctor to another, or is his behavior in objecting to Lee’s every suggestion covering something more sinister?  And does the TPI, the True Potential Institute, an after-school program for the very best and the brightest that both Susie and Cam attend, have any part in this?

Daniel Palmer has written what truly is a page-turner.  You will be caught in the action from the beginning as Lee and Karen try to figure out what is bringing  these two formerly healthy teenagers to the point of death.

You can read more about Daniel Palmer 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.