Thursday, April 16, 2009
Beat the Reaper - a review
In many different ways, Beat the Reaper is a formulaic thriller. Boy's family is murdered, to avenge them boy grows up to be a professional killer, boy repents and quits, bad guys find boy, violence ensues. We've all seen the plot a dozen times or more.
Author Josh Bazell, a medical doctor turned author, decides to shake things up a bit while still sticking to that formula. Our ex-hit man Peter Brown is now living as a working (and exhausted) emergency room doctor, having gone back to med school in the witness protection program. It's pure bad luck that he treats a man he knew in his former life, a guy who ignores his terminal diagnosis and announces that if he dies, he's made sure the mob will know of Peter's whereabouts.
Somehow, someway Peter must keep the man alive to keep the secret safe - or else find a way to kill him without alerting the mob.
I've heard complaints about the books format, which includes footnotes that elaborate on the medical and social issues in the book. I disagree with this critique completely, as I thought it was an inventive and entertaining break from convention.
Where I find fault is in some scenes done in poor taste (such as an act of oral sex with a girl mere feet from her brothers corpse) and a viciously harsh assessment of Poland and its WWII anti-Semitism that populates a flashback. Perhaps the criticism of that country was justified, but in my experience someone capable of that much anger and contempt is often the equal of their target in bigotry.
Based on the work as a whole I would tepidly recommend this book for action/thriller readers, but one scene lifts this book to must read status. The final action is so out of left field and so extreme, that I literally laughed out loud in suprise and said "Oh my [bleeping] god!"
It is . . .crazy.
For that scene alone, you need to pick up a copy of this book.