(1999) Ken McClure, Simon & Schuster, £16.99, hrdbk, 343pp, ISBN 0-684-85128-8
The so-called medical thriller has grown in popularity, which is somewhat confusing in that, given that going into hospital is quite stressful in the first place, then surely the last thing we need is authors upsetting readers unduly about various procedures? This is not the case here, since this book involves a minor outbreak of smallpox, but is relevent to the release of Donor (pbk, £5.99, ISBN 0-671-00528-6). Personally, I think all this stuff can make for a good plot, but have reservations about its social impact.
I'll state quite baldly that I didn't like this book. There are two main reasons. Firstly, McClure is being billed as a Scottish Michael Crichton. Well, not only is he nowhere near as good a writer as Crichton, neither does he include the detail and speculation that Crichton does. I appreciate that this is no real reason to dislike the book per se, but I dislike hype at the best of times, especially so when it's misleading. Secondly, McClure's plot construction is unfair, in the sense that the average Agatha Christie is unfair, which is to say that he leads you through page after page of red herrings, then springs a surprise on you at the end. Of all the plots there are, I believe that if you choose to present a 'mystery', then you have to play fair with the reader. On the basis of two books from McClure, I cannot recommend him.
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