Saturday, February 25, 2012

Death Benefit by Robin Cook ****

After spending over ten years in NYC foster care, moving from one abusive home to another, Pia Gradzani is a tough and isolated, and fortunately smart, very smart. As our story opens, she is a fourth-med med student, and has been selected by Dr Tobias Rothman, Nobel prize winner, fellow foster system graduate, to do her PhD research in his lab. Thanks to Asperger's and foster care, they are two of a kind: hyper-rational, focused, and socially isolated. In a the brutal, no eye contact, unemotional style of hyper geeks, these two are perfect for each other. A love story between two people have no concept of love.

As might be expected, when Dr Rothman dies under questionable circumstances, nothing, not the Columbia Medical School, not threats of being throw out of school just months from graduation, not being beaten up and drugged, not the Albanian mafia, ... nothing stops Pia from searching for the truth. After several plot twists, Pia emerges victorious, though still isolated.

If you're looking for a tough, smart heroine, Pia Gradzani is your women. For Robin Cook fans, Death Benefit is a nice break from his seeming endless novels of Medical Examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton, though they make cameo performances in this novel anyway.

The plot premise is ludicrous and the opening is slow, but once it gets going, Pia is fantastic and the suspension of disbelief pays off. An excellent addition to the Robin Cook oeuvre, several of which have appeared here to mixed reviews: Contagion, Vector, Invasion, and Blindsight.

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