Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: "Stress Test" by Richard Mabry

Life is good for Dr. Matt Newman. He has finished his last day in private practice. He's ready to start a new job tomorrow as an assistant professor of surgery at Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas — less stress, more regular hours, time for a life, and a happier girlfriend. As he walks out of Metropolitan Hospital after an emergency call and gets to his car in a deserted part of the hospital's parking garage, he's suddenly attacked, bound with duct tape, tossed in the trunk of his car, and driven off to his certain demise. When he escapes, Detective Grimes doesn't believe his kidnapping story but goes after Dr. Newman for the murder of Cara Mendiola, an IT technician at Metropolitan found dead in the trunk of his car. Defense attorney, Sandra Murray, takes his case but life goes downhill fast for Dr. Newman.

This is how Richard Mabry begins his most recent medical mystery. I've read 3 of 4 of his medical mystery series, Prescription for Trouble, and enjoyed every one of them. Stress Test was equally enjoyable. Mabry's treatment of the characters was consistent — if they had been actors, one would say they stayed in character. He does a good job of intertwining the lives of the characters to introduce some internal as well as interpersonal tension. For example, Ms. Murray has just broken off a relationship with Dr. Ken Gordon because he doesn't share her faith in God. She has concluded that all doctors are probably like Dr. Gordon — so wed to science that they can't have faith in God. Dr. Gordon becomes Dr. Newman's neurosurgeon when Dr. Newman suffers a serious head injury in his kidnapping. And, Ms. Murray not only takes Dr. Newman's case, she begins to be emotionally attached to him.

While Mabry keeps his characters in character, they are sometimes a bit shallow. For instance, it seems unlikely that someone like Ms. Murray, who is very good as a defense lawyer, would jump to the conclusion that all doctors were faithless just because Dr. Gordon wanted nothing to do with religion.

This is a "Christian mystery" so references to faith and God should come as no surprise. These elements are believable and portrayed as normal facets of life for the characters. Some might question Ms. Murray's breaking off of the relationship with Dr. Gordon because of his unbelief as odd, but it's not odd in the Christian world. Dr. Newman's faith grows throughout the story. Other characters have to confront their own lack of faith as the story progresses.

There were some plot quirks. For instance, near the end of the book, Mabry has Detective Ames saying that a certain deputy sheriff probably called the police dispatcher. She speculates that Detective Grimes had alerted the dispatcher to let him know about any calls related to Dr. Newman. However, just one screen later, Detective Ames says that the police got lucky because the deputy sheriff called the detective division rather than the police dispatcher.

All in all, this was worth reading.

There were some interface errors in the Kindle edition. Navigating to "Go to...Beginning" took me to the author's page at the very end of the book. Neither Kindle's X-Ray function nor real page numbers were enabled — perhaps that's because I was reading a review copy from the publisher but the X-Ray function, especially, would have been helpful.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. See http://cmp.ly/1
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