It was by chance that I found Josh Bazell’s debut novel, Beat the Reaper. My local stores have a poor track record of picking up first time novelists’ books, so unfortunately a lot of my book buying is online. Fortunately while purchasing another novel Beat the Reaper was recommended. So I took a look at the description and the plot grabbed me.
Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at NYC’s worst hospital, Manhattan Catholic. He’s also a man hiding from his past under the protection of the Witness Security Program (WitSec). That past, a former mob hitman turned informant, catches up to him one evening while making rounds as he runs into a familiar face, a mobster dying from an aggressive stomach cancer. From there we are taken on a roller coaster ride of violence, love, loss and redemption through the eyes of Peter Brown aka Pietro Brnwa aka “The Bearclaw”.
Josh Bazell is a unique voice, mashing up a blood soaked crime thriller with a detailed medical procedural, that pushes you from cover to cover causing both awe and revulsion. I could not put the book down despite some questionable scenes that were both probable or improbable. My favorite bits were the footnotes through out the book that filled in the reader on medical knowledge. I will never forget ‘degloving’.
Beat the Reaper is a great novel debut from Bazell and I can only imagine how he will follow it up. This books is not for everyone with it’s violence and profanity, but with flavors of Chuck Palahniuk, Charlie Huston with a touch of Mickey Spillane it might have an appeal to those readers.