Monday, June 22, 2009

Relative Reads Review - The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer

I was given the great fortune of growing up in a family of readers. Both of my parents read, and so do the majority of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. In fact, my Great-Grandma had cataract surgery in her 90's, because she couldn't bear to not be able to read. I thought it would be interesting to read some of the books THEY have discovered and enjoyed over the years, so I asked them to send me some recommendations, and the fun began! I have a list of the titles various family members have suggested on the side of the blog, so if you want to see what will be coming up you can take a peek.

The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer (recommended by Aunt Irlowain)
published 2/07
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

In Boston, a disgraced medical student is sent to deliver a research paper that could save her career… In a hospital four thousand miles away, a reclusive scientist, dying from an incurable disease that threatens to make each tortured breath his last, is on the verge of perfecting a serum that could save millions of lives—and bring others inestimable wealth… In Chicago, a disillusioned detective is hired to determine the identity of a John Doe, killed on a Florida highway, with mysterious marks on his body.

Three seemingly disconnected lives, surging unrelentingly toward one another—
and linked forever by THE FIFTH VIAL

My thoughts:

I've always loved medical thrillers. Whenever I'm having trouble deciding what to read next, or finding it difficult to settle into reading, a good Robin Cook or Michael Crichton novel always gets me back in the groove. This is the first book I've read by Michael Palmer, but now he's definitely on my list of "to read" authors.

His three main characters - Natalie, Ben, and Joseph - are the kind of leads that work perfectly in this type of novel. Each has a specific goal, and Palmer throws enough challenges in their path that the goal seems just out of reach. Each also has a flaw or two, making them realistic and just imperfect enough that they don't appear pompous. I really liked all three, and felt like they'd be interesting to know in real life.

And the bad guys - oh, the bad guys. They were mysterious and powerful, and even when you start figuring out what's really going on, they can still surprise you. I thought Palmer's use of Plato's ideas about the Guardians of the Republic were especially effective in fleshing out the twisted logic of the group. And, when the Baddest of Bad Guys was finally revealed, I didn't see it coming.

Of course, as in many novels of this genre, there are a collection of incredible coincidences that propel the action forward - but honestly, I don't read these novels because they are perfect, I read them because they are fun! And this one was certainly a lot of fun. If you enjoy this type of book, I would definitely recommend The Fifth Vial. It's a fast, suspenseful, engrossing read.

Finished: 6/20/09
Source: Franklin Avenue Library
Rating: 8/10

This book counts toward:


Zibilee said...

I really like this feature! I, too, have enjoyed several medical thrillers, and like you, I find them a perfect in between read when I can't figure out what to read next. I guess they are a type of palate cleanser for me. I will have to give this one a try, it sounds like I would really like it. Thanks!!

Literary Feline said...

I've read a couple of Michael Palmer books and both were enjoyable. I like a medical thriller now and then. :-)

I agree with Ziblee, I like this feature too!

mar10123 said...

Aunt Irlowain flies into DM today, so get ready for some good book discussions and more recommendations!