Medical

Killer Nashville’s 2015 Silver Falchion Award

 

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Killer Nashville is one of the most popular conferences in the country for writers and readers and is held each year in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Established by writer and filmmaker Clay Stafford in 2006, the conference assists authors in the craft of mystery, thriller, suspense and crime fiction writing. Stafford and American Blackguard, Inc. also work to further various literacy programs throughout the year.

 

As a part of both encouraging and rewarding writers in their varied fields, the Silver Falchion Award is given to outstanding books published in the previous year. This year, the awards were presented on October 31st. Here is a partial list of 2015 finalists and winners for their 2014 titles:

 

Best Novel: Romantic Suspense

Judgment – Carey Baldwin
The Lost Key – Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison
Top Secret Twenty-One – Janet Evanovich
Sweet Damage – Rebecca James
*Truth Be Told – Hank Phillippi Ryan received the award

 

Best Novel: Cozy/Traditional
Angelica’s Smile – Andrea Camilleri
The Question of the Missing Head – E. J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen
The Alpine Yeoman – Mary Daheim
Designated Daughters – Margaret Maron
*Hunting Shadows – Charles Todd received the award

 

Best Novel: Literary Suspense

The Dead Will Tell – Linda Castillo
Red 1-2-3 – John Katzenbach
Mr. Mercedes – Stephen King
*The Day She Died – Catriona McPherson received the award
The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

 

Best Novel: Political Thriller/Adventure

Night Heron – Adam Brookes
Dark Spies: A Spycatcher Novel – Matthew Dunn
The Hilltop – Assaf Gavron
End Game – John Gilstrap
*I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes received the award
Assassin’s Game – Ward Larsen

 

Best Novel: Crime Thriller

The Bone Orchard – Paul Doiron
Dakota – Gwen Florio
Gangsterland – Tod Goldberg
The Keeper – John Lescroart
*In the Blood – Lisa Unger  received the award

 

Best First Novel: Cozy/Traditional/Historical

Honor Above All – J. Bard-Collins
To Fudge or Not to Fudge – Nancy Coco
Murder at Honeychurch Hall – Hannah Dennison
*The Life We Bury – Allen Eskens  received the award
Dying to Know – TJ O’Connor

 

Best First Novel: Mystery/Thriller:

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary
Hotlanta – Mark Neilson
The American Mission – Matthew Palmer
*The Black Hour – Lori Rader-Day received the award
The Hawley Book of the Dead – Chrysler Szarlan
The Ways of the Dead – Neely Tucker
The Martian – Andy Weir

 

 

Please visit www.killernashville.com/2015-silver-falchion-finalists/  for the rest of the categories.

 

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners! 

 

 

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“The Dog Year” by Ann Garvin

 

Book Cover - The Dog Year

Surgeon Lucy Peterman loses her husband, unborn child, and her perfect life in a car accident. Six months later and back at work, she tells everyone she is fine. But, in Ann Garvin’s “The Dog Year,” Peterman is stealing anything in the hospital that can be slipped into her pockets. That’s no big deal, right? She more or less knows why she’s doing it and it’s not like she’s selling Band-Aids on the black market to make a profit. Who could it hurt?

 

Peterman is one of those doctors that is loved by her patients. She goes the extra mile to protect their dignity before they undergo the knife, a rarity in most hospitals where impersonal interactions are the norm. Because of this, the hospital staff ignores her thefts until they impact inventory. When records, witnesses, and cameras confirm that much more is missing than the odd bandage or two, Peterman is told to get help or lose her job. Returning the stolen supplies would be a good start, but she can’t bring herself to admit that she needs help, not even when it turns out that an entire room in her house is filled to the walls with the evidence.

 

The hospital administrator orders her to see a therapist who in turn, sends her to a local Twelve Step program. AA is not the answer for everyone and when Peterman is sent there, she knows it’s not going to work. She avoids the meetings, at first because she’s in denial, but later because it’s not a good fit.

 

“The Dog Year” is a moving portrayal of grief and its aftermath, exploring the raw emotions that can paralyze our hearts and bring us to our knees. While many of us might turn to coping mechanisms that can be hidden from the outside world – screaming behind closed doors or drinking to excess – we all do something to help ourselves get through the reality of being left behind. Faith helps some, social connections help others, but I have never met anyone that could go it entirely alone. And yet, that’s what Peterman tries to do.

 

Garvin provides a strong group of supporting characters that show sympathy for Lucy Peterman, grieve with her, and best of all, point out truths in the face of her re-creating the facts. The brother realistically enables her bad behavior until he can’t take it anymore, a high school acquaintance cuts her slack and stands by her when Peterman’s thefts become more public, and a convincingly written anorexic has no sympathy for this woman that leads a privileged life. There are assorted quirky souls that add depth and texture to this beautifully written story. Even the dog in “The Dog Year,” tugs at our hearts, plays a pivotal role, and brings people together in unexpected ways. There are astonishing discoveries and changes as Peterman begins to deal with her new reality – quite satisfying in a hopeful way.

 

There are so many things to love about “The Dog Year.” I cried, I laughed – it made me remember my own times of grief in softer ways. After a while, life does go on, even if we’re not ready for it. We just need to “Choose to find a way.”

 

Despite the serious nature of the topics, the book has many laugh-out-loud moments. Peterman has a wild, sometimes crude, sense of humor and much of that humor is directed at herself. She can be snarky, and sometimes mean, and oh, so very spot-on with some of the jokes. There are also many moments of tenderness toward the people in her life, something she finds hard to feel for herself.

 

Through Lucy Peterman’s character, Garvin makes several important points. Addiction takes over lives at weak moments in different ways. And while there are commonalities in addictions, if we want our loved ones to heal, there has to be a more conscious effort to match the treatment to the person and the addiction. “The Dog Year” bravely shouts that from the rooftops. 

 

Having spent her life in medicine, Ann Garvin brings a great deal of insight to “The Dog Year” about how hospitals and the health care world works. She is also crazy about dogs and it shows.

 

Please visit www.anngarvin.net for more information.

 

 

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“The Rising” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover -The Rising

“The Rising,” by Lynn Chandler Willis, is the story of a baffling event that nobody – detectives, medical personnel, bystanders – can explain. A young child is found in an alley, apparently beaten to death. The crime scene is checked by a detective, and the lifeless, bloodied body is delivered to the hospital by ambulance.

 

After thirty minutes of testing for respiration, pulse, and brain wave activity, the ER physician pronounces the boy dead and has him moved to the morgue on a gurney. And yet, the next day, that same little boy walks into the morgue office with no bruises and no blood, wearing the toe tag on his foot, and asks to go to the bathroom.

 

Say what?

 

The Homicide Detective covering the case, Ellie Saunders, saw that the boy was dead. Everybody at the hospital saw that the boy was dead. And, now thirty hours later, he’s not.

 

Saunders and her partner are called in to investigate the (now) assault. The child does not know who he is or what happened to him and the hospital is labeling this a Lazarus Syndrome case – very rare and usually only linked to people who have ‘come-back-to-life’ after an hour or two. Unheard of after this long.

 

Saunders becomes obsessed with finding the boy’s family as well as the person that hurt him so badly. She is horrified at the fact that anyone could have done this to the child, and (without giving away the plot) wants to protect him from further insult or injury. Roadblocks are placed in Saunders way at many turns and as this unusual story unfolds, we are drawn into not only the investigation, but an exploration of faith vs science.

 

The supporting characters are fully fleshed out; a likably wacky morgue attendant, an assortment of interesting colleagues, quirky locals, caring as well as flirtatious doctors, reluctant witnesses, a supposedly lost love, an outspoken aunt, and an estranged preacher father. Saunders herself is complex, mostly in control of her actions and emotions until the case triggers memories of her troubled past. Those memories drive her to bend a few rules in her tenacious pursuit of the truth.

 

Willis’ depiction of the child is perfect. She draws on her considerable research with her own delightful family, but there’s another layer here that many writers miss when creating the children in their books. The child’s relationships and personality develop in a natural way through “The Rising,” revealing a combination of shyness, intelligence, appropriate language and reactions. Johnny Doe puts up with the adults’ questions for a bit and then his attention turns to trucks and coloring. Spot-on writing that will tug at your heart and remind you of a child you know. Willis also taps into an understanding of the unspoken messages that children reveal in their play, and makes that a part of the mystery that Saunders must solve.

 

Along the way, Saunders must come to terms with her own loss of faith and how it has impacted her decisions. Discussions with friends and family are not always welcome. Then, two parallel storylines merge nicely with the Johnny Doe case and Willis brings us home with an action packed, satisfying ending.

 

It’s easy to see whyThe Rising won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction in the mystery/romantic suspense/thriller category.

 

By the way, Johnny Doe’s fictional situation is an actual medical condition – Google ‘Lazarus Syndrome’ and read the real-life case studies.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for more information about Willis’ other books and upcoming events.

 

 

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“Harvest” by Tess Gerritsen

 

Book Cover - Harvest

A young, talented surgical resident, Dr. Abby Di Matteo, is recruited to become a future member of Bayside Hospital’s organ transplant team. Seems perfect – a dream job where she will be doing something she loves while working with her fiancée.

 

The catch? She and Chief Resident, Dr. Vivian Chao, take a heart listed in a donor registry for their dying teenage patient, but somehow slated at the last moment for a wealthy woman who is number three on the donor list. The husband of the rich patient is incensed and tries to ruin Dr. Matteo’s career. Terrible murder accusations are made, but no one believes in her innocence except Chao who did the organ harvest with her. Matteo wonders whom she can trust, especially when the origin of the transplant heart becomes suspect. 

 

This action packed novel is full of surgical detail along with personal, legal and professional drama. A parallel story of potential transplant donors (involving the Russian Mafia) is tragic and horrifying at the same time.

 

Organ harvesting is certainly not new, but in 1996, when this book was first published, the medical community in the U.S. was undergoing yet another review of the process of matching donors with recipients. It had been legal to donate organs for over thirty years, but as transplants of all types became routinely successful, doctors of the gravely ill sought more donors. It became important to establish a national clearinghouse for the available organs, ranking potential recipients by need for the organ, not by income level. This ranking eliminated questions of unfairness, but wasn’t foolproof. Enter a new phase for the medical thriller.

 

A bit of literary trivia: “Harvest” mentions a paralyzing drug, succinylcholine. This drug is widely used by anesthesiologists to induce muscle relaxation during surgery, but in the wrong dose can cause wide-awake paralysis. If you enjoy medical thrillers, you might remember the same drug used in Cook’s “Foreign Body” (published in 2008) with very different results.

 

Please visit www.tessgerritsen.com for more information about Gerritsen’s many bestsellers, including the Rizzoli & Isles series upon which the TV show is based.

 

 

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“Foreign Body” by Robin Cook

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Robin Cook, author of over two dozen medical thrillers, took on the medical tourism industry in “Foreign Body.” As in all his books, we are invited to view the dark side of medicine, so if you are considering traveling overseas to get a kidney transplant or a hip replacement, think again. Just kidding…  maybe…  😉

 

The sinister plot revolves around the untimely passing of a sixtyish grandmother after undergoing hip surgery in India. The fourth-year medical student granddaughter, Jennifer Hernandez, finds out about her loss while watching CNN in California only hours after granny has died. Medical tourism is the culprit behind the death (and two others), with American medical company employees out to discredit surgeries performed in other countries in order to keep business firmly in the USA.

 

We know who is at fault from the beginning, but the fun is in seeing how the granddaughter travels to India and unravels the complex crime, then discovers the criminals trying to cover their tracks. Her mentor, NYC medical examiner Dr. Laurie Montgomery, and Laurie’s husband, Dr. Jack Stapleton, follow Hernandez to India when unexplained medical questions arise and she is pressured unnecessarily to cremate her grandmother. We aren’t sure until nearly the end how it will all work out, but we are fully invested in the characters as the tension mounts and the stakes escalate.

 

I met Dr. Cook at a writer’s conference (where he was interviewed by “Sandstorm” author, James Rollins) and he was kind enough to autograph a copy of “Foreign Body” for my mother, a huge fan. She chose it for me to read to her during a hospital stay and several chapters work well as cliffhangers. It was hard to put down and leave behind when the story moved along so well. Fun read.

 

Fans of Cook have probably seen the movie, “Coma.” The book of the same name was Cook’s breakthrough novel, largely defining the ‘medical thriller’ genre over thirty years ago.

 

Visit www.robincookmd.com for more information about Dr. Cook, his many bestselling books, and the 50 webisodes of “Foreign Body.” 

 

 

 

 

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“Proof” by Jordyn Redwood

Book Cover - Proof Lilly Reeves is an ER doctor who chooses to live alone. She stays in shape, attends martial arts classes, owns a gun, and has three locks on her front door. She is a caring doctor, good at her job, and well liked by her colleagues. She has a close friend and a nice guy who wants to date her. None of that prevents her from being attacked and raped in her own home. And she may be the fifth victim of a serial rapist.  

She accidently discovers the identity of her attacker at work, but when she makes her accusations, DNA testing proves her wrong and she in turn, is accused of being unstable. Even her friends begin to doubt her sanity. At first, Reeves thinks she has it all together, that she will be fine as soon as the rapist is behind bars. But, that is far from reality.  

There are multiple twists and turns as the rapist proves to be more cold-blooded than anybody could have imagined. Reeves speeds ever downward, trapped in her despair and acts of self-destruction. Her friends, along with the policeman assigned to the case, do their best to help, but Reeves doesn’t want to be helped, especially when the worst news possible is revealed. This is a faith-based book, with a Christian perspective as how best to handle the many issues that arise, but to Redwood’s credit, the true-to-life discussions have non-believer Dr. Reeves standing firm, several times.  

“Proof” is a debut novel, but compares favorably with more established medical thrillers. ER procedures as well as difficult deliveries are meticulously written, yet easy to read. The medical oddity that identifies the killer is well-researched and thoroughly fascinating. The lead characters are fully developed and realistically supportive. “Proof” does not shy away from the subject, but it does not actually contain a violent re-enactment of the rape. Rather, it is an absorbing study in how a woman and the people who surround her, deal with the challenging aftermath of that rape. This is an honest, Christian look at a serious problem.  

The Twitterverse is a terrific place to discover new authors. I ‘met’ Jordyn Redwood because of her blog, “Redwood’s Medical Edge.” Jordyn is an ER nurse who created the blog in order to help authors write correctly about medical details in their work. On Fridays, many writers/reviewers on Twitter share a heads-up about good research sources; Redwood’s column is an excellent place to find great information about life in an ER. In addition to doing her own columns, she has guest bloggers who address certain areas of interest related to the medical field, as varied as Civil War medicine and neonatal emergencies. Great blog.  

“Proof” is the first in the ‘Bloodline Trilogy,’ and was nominated for the Carol Award. The second book in the series, “Poison,” was released on February 1, 2013.  

For more information, please visit www.jordynredwood.com    

 

 

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