Best Medical Thrillers of 2016

Best Medical Thrillers of 2016

Similar to other years, 2016 saw the release of book after book. Some were unforgettable, better used as paperweights than before-bedtime fodder, while others were papercut inducing – we turned the pages a bit too quickly and sliced our index fingers. If you’d like to purchase any of the books listed below, you can save yourself some money using Chapters coupons.

While the love of a book is subjective, the following medical thrillers are certainly worth the read, particularly if you’re already a fan of the author.

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell: Readers who enjoy Cornwell know that many of her books have similar elements. For one thing, certain passages are really quite vivid in regards to descriptions of life as a medical examiner. While this can be a little unsettling for some people (or their stomachs), those who enjoy medical thrillers know that it comes with the territory.

Chaos follows Cornwell’s most popular character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, as she and her partner Pete Marino investigate the death of a bicyclist near the Kennedy School of Government. Rather than being struck by lightning (as previously assumed), the deceased appears to have been killed by some monstrous force.

The FBI and Interpol get involved with the case, leaving Scarpetta to wonder what’s so special about it. Further intriguing the reader is a touch of modern day crime: cyberbullying. The timing of this bully causes Scarpetta to assume he’s involved with the death of the bicyclist.

The novel also touches on the media’s ability to divide people, cause panic, and jump to conclusions, all topics particularly relevant in modern day. In that way, it’s very true to its name as chaos ensues and little things add up fast to tangle the web even further.

Field of Graves by JT Ellison: Like Cornwell, Ellison is well regarded as a writer and, like Cornwell, she’s known for a series of books, rather than stand-alone plots. Field of Graves features Homicide LT Taylor Jackson and the medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens.

The plot involves a serial killer loose in Nashville. But this isn’t any ordinary homicidal maniac; it’s one trying to create his own apocalypse. Those pursuing him must fight time as well as their own demons in order to stop the killer from ending even more lives.

Unlike many of Ellison’s books, this novel truly delves into the origins of some of the main characters. These revelations are certain to elate longtime readers and make the recurring characters more likeable and more relatable. This bodes well for the sales of Ellison’s future novels in this series.

In the Midnight Hour: A Medical Thriller by Reggie Ridgway: In the Midnight Hour follows Dr. Jonathan Anderson, a prestigious surgeon forced to resign from his role as Chief of Surgery. Upon returning home, he finds his wife in bed with another man and quickly grows suicidal. But his wife attempts to take away his gun and, as a result, is accidentally killed.

Anderson is convicted of her murder, a fate that leaves him in denial and disbelief. He begins to uncover exactly what led to his downfall and discovers corruption and several more murders. He grows motivated to get revenge on those he deems responsible for ruining his life. But, like all thrillers, he doesn’t have loads of time to do this. He must race against the clock as well as those trying to stop him from learning the truth.

The book was hailed for its fast pace as well as it’s unpredictability. While many thrillers leave you knowing “who done it” midway through the novel, this one doesn’t. The mystery involved fails to disappoint. Some of the medical jargon is more in depth than one might like, but the overall story is worth it.

The Best Medical Thrillers of All Time

The Best Medical Thrillers of All Time

The medical thriller genre is vast, with thousands of books available in stores and libraries. It’s a popular subject in other mediums as well – a medical drama series is found every evening on any given channel. Health, fear of the unknown, and the horror of possibilities each intrigue the human mind, making medicine an exciting area.

Still, some medical thrillers are better than others. Some are unbelievable or too hard to follow. Some are too technical and lose readers with their procedural style. And some are downright wonderful, able to stand the test of time decade after decade.

There are many medical thrillers considered worthy of “best of all time” status. But the following take the cake, and the catheter:

Coma by Robin Cook: Coma was published in 1977 and it’s the book that put Robin Cook on the map. The plot involves Susan Wheeler, a young medical student working at Boston Memorial Hospital who starts to uncover the truth. Susan is curious, daring, and, of course, attractive. The book explores the issues of women working in a “man’s profession” showing that it’s true to its time (it’s nearly forty years old).

The crux of the book involves Susan’s focus on two patients who fall into comas following their operations, complications attributed to anesthesia. But Susan discovers that their oxygen lines had been tampered with, rending vegetative states. She is soon led to the Jefferson Institute, an intensive care facility for patients who are declared brain dead. The patients here are suspended from the ceiling and moved around like products, rather than people. They’re kept alive, technically, until a call for organs comes in from the black market. The patients are then farmed for hearts or kidneys or whatever else is needed, clearly without their consent.

The premise of the book is scary enough to make anyone second guess an elective procedure that involves going under.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston: The most horrific thing about The Hot Zone is that it’s not fictional (the entire title is The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story). Rather, it explores the origins of some of the planet’s most horrific diseases. It’s divided into four sections, with the first section involving the story of Charles Monet and the Marburg virus. The progression of the disease, the biosafety levels, and the procedures aimed at containing it are all described. This section also discusses the AIDS virus, the Ebola virus, and the Sudan virus.

The second section involves the discovery of the Reston virus in monkeys imported to Reston, Virginia. It uncovers the actions taken by the Army and the CDC to keep the situation from worsening. The Reston virus causes an Ebola-like disease in nonhuman primates but doesn’t infect humans (at least it doesn’t cause symptoms). However, viruses mutate and that adds to the fright of this section.

The third section further explores the Reston virus with a focus on its ability to spread by air. The final section involves the author visiting a cave where the natural host animal to the Ebola virus is suspected to live.
The Hot Zone will leave you both afraid of the “what if” and impressed by the author’s audacity (or you might conclude that he’s crazy).

The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton: Like so many effective writers of medical thrillers, Michael Crichton was also a trained physician. The Terminal Man isn’t as well-known as his work with dinosaurs, but it was widely lauded by critics for its fast-moving plotline and sound science. The story involves Harry Benson, a man prone to seizures and violence. After he’s captured by the police, he’s taken to University Hospital in Los Angeles, where the head of the neuropsychiatric unit, Dr. Roger McPherson, offers a cure through a procedure called “Stage Three.” This involves experimental surgery where electrodes are placed on the patient’s brain.

The operation is thought successful, but Benson learns how to control and increase the frequency of his rages. He escapes and disappears into the city where he begins a homicidal rampage.

The novel explores mind control and is engrossing, riveting, and makes the reader truly think.

Medical Thriller Films that Failed to Live up to their Books

Medical Thriller Films that Failed to Live up to their Books

Everyone knows never to judge a book by its cover, but avid readers know not to judge a book by its movie either. This isn’t always the case – there are instances where the movie meets or even exceeds the expectations set by the novel. But, in general, films struggle to live up to the written word.

Medical thrillers are, of course, no exception to this. Some do an admirable job -the movie adaptation of Coma wasn’t as good as the book, but it was worth the watch. Then there are the films that don’t compare much at all.

Some of the movies that leave us wanting to only get our fiction through fonts include:

Outbreak: Despite its title, the movie Outbreak wasn’t based on the Robin Cook novel of the same name. Instead, it was based on The Hot Zone. It was loosely based, which is part of the problem: it tried to take nonfiction and make it fiction. Even so, it had its moments.

Most people didn’t walk out of the theater without rethinking their plans to buy a pet monkey (as the monkey, in the movie, is the host species of a deadly virus) and it certainly gave us pause in regards to the government; namely, are they hiding a deadly disease from the masses? It also touched on the isolation of illness quite well – those infected are quarantined under martial law and essentially discarded by society.

The negatives of the movie involve its predictability; as soon as a major character is infected, it’s pretty easy to guess what happens. A lot of the science isn’t introduced in laymen terms, either, which is frustrating to those who want to be whisked away, not looking for their encyclopedias. Ultimately, the movie is a bit too shallow for it to be that enjoyable: it’s alarming in parts and sometimes unsettling, but too eye-roll inducing overall.

Virus: A film that was based on Cook’s Outbreak, Virus Is a made-for-TV movie from the 1990s (and you can tell!). It’s also known as Formula for Death (its DVD title). It tells the story of a deadly virus circulating around the country. But a young doctor realizes, upon closer look, that this virus claims the lives of individuals with certain commonalities; she concludes its release was intentional.

While the book was written by the master of the medical thriller, this genius doesn’t translate to the screen. The movie makes a deadly virus seem less scary and more melodramatic than necessary. The storyline also comes across as ridiculous, something that didn’t happen in the novel.

Viewers might not hate it, but they might find themselves wondering whether it’s a suspense drama or an unintentional comedy.

The Carey Treatment: The Carey Treatment is based on the book A Case of Need, a mystery novel written by Michael Crichton under a pseudonym. The story focuses on Dr. Peter Carey who moves to Boston and begins work in the hospital. The daughter of the Chief of Staff is rushed to the ER after an illegal abortion and Carey’s friend, Dr. David Tao, is arrested for the abortion (and her death). Carey doesn’t believe he’s guilty and begins an investigation of his own. His superiors try to dissuade his curiosity, acting as though they have something to hide (and they do!).

The film addresses the controversy surrounding abortion, but it fails to convey any real seriousness that the viewer can back: rather, it comes across like a tacky, PI movie. It also involves many scenes that appear as fillers: they offer very little and leave the viewer wondering if they had a point. The answer? No.

Five Things that Make a Good Medical Thriller

Five Things that Make a Good Medical Thriller

It might seem like anyone can write a medical thriller – you just need a computer and an imagination, after all. But, in reality, the medical thriller genre is a genre primed for the trite, the cheesy, and the downright ridiculous. In other words, not every novel is a bestseller (or, really, a seller at all).

It’s simple – there are certain things an author must possess to write effectively in any area. But, because medical thrillers involve more intricacies and technicalities than other specialties, it’s a category that requires a certain finesse and a lot of knowledge.

Ultimately, five things that make a good medical thriller include:

  1. In-Depth Comprehension: There’s an old adage in the writing world – “Write what you know.” This hold true no matter the plotline. It’s the reason people like John Grisham, a lawyer by trade, writes so accurately about law. Of course there are exceptions – Stephen King probably doesn’t have real life experience with dead pets that come back to life – but, overall, an author needs to know what they’re talking about.

    Medical thrillers must involve in-depth comprehension of medicine and comprehension of viruses, anatomy, and scientific possibilities (as well as limitations). Authors like Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen are retired physicians – this helps them write so convincingly. It comes down to the adage again. Either write what you know or people will know that you’re clueless.

  2. Not too Much Technical Jargon: As important as medical knowledge is, there can be too much of a good thing. This is especially true in regards to overtly technical language or complicated concepts – people turn to medical thrillers to escape, the find entertainment, to enjoy their downtime; they don’t turn to them to revert back to high school biology. Some people reading medical thrillers may be well versed in the area, but the majority of people don’t know mitosis from meiosis. A good writer considers this and focuses on writing a novel, not a textbook.
  3. The Introduction of Relatable Characters: Some elements that make a good medical thriller are across-the-board elements that make a good book regardless of genre. One of these is the introduction of characters who are relatable – they need to be people readers enjoy. Readers don’t need to love them, per say, but they need to feel something (even if it’s contempt). A story that keeps moving forward is also instrumental. Plots that are too slow, too convoluted, or too predictable leave the reader disappointed. There needs to be some complexity (and not everything that happens needs to be shocking), but there must be some elements of ease and surprise.
  4. Originality: One of the difficulties of writing a medical thriller is that a lot of things have been done before – contagious viruses, bioengineered bacteria, criminal doctors who not only take your insurance but your organs too. Rewriting the same plot isn’t often effective: readers thirst for something that’s never been done. The good news is medicine is an ever-evolving field and that opens the doors for novelists. Genetics, for instance, is a field that has exploded in the last decade. One thing that’s attractive to readers who love medical thrillers? Clones.
  5. Enjoyment of the Story: The seasoned reader is very attuned to whether a novelist actually enjoyed writing their novel (or did it begrudgingly as part of a contract). A good medical thriller is exciting and suspenseful, but it’s also fun. The enthusiasm of the writer dances off the pages and into the reader’s imagination. The pages are well crafted and designed to leave the reader wanting more.

Perhaps that’s the number one thing that makes a good medical thriller: the reader knows they need to go to bed but they keep telling themselves, “Five more minutes.”