Friday, August 1, 2008

The First Patient

Title: The First Patient
Author: Michael Palmer
Date Finished: July 30, 2008
Pages: 384

Before reading this book, I had not heard anything about Nanotechnology, but found myself very intrigued as the story progressed. Not being very medical savvy, this book opened my eyes to something new that I would consider to be a topic of sensational medical research.

A definition from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology lists: "Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, 'nanotechnology' refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products." More on this later.

The story begins in picturesque Wyoming, with Gabe Singleton, a doctor and former Naval Academy cadet, sitting atop a horse watching a helicopter land. This particular helicopter happens to contain the President of the United States, whom they have given the acronym "POTUS", Andrew Stoddard. Gabe and Drew are longtime friends having been both cadets and roommates at Annapolis. The reason for Andrew's visit is to recruit Gabe to come with him to Washington to be his personal physician. The man who had held this position, until recently, seems to have vanished along with his college-aged daughter. Although reluctant to leave his life in Wyoming, Gabe agrees.

While getting dressed for his first political dinner, Gabe is summoned up to the President's quarters to find him having what appears to be a psychotic episode. After stabilizing Drew, Gabe is informed that this is not his first episode and all the test results from his previous episodes have disappeared along with his doctor. After some talk about invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (which deals with removing power from the President due to disabilities, and giving the power to the Vice President) Gabe agrees to keep this Presidents secret and not let on to anyone that something is amiss.

Within the book, Nanotechnology has been used to give an unknown source power over the President without his knowledge or the knowledge of those in his immediate cadre of secret service agents, family or close personal friends. By pushing a button, chemicals within the President's brain react and cause him to have what appears to be a psychotic episode.

There are two powerful women in this book that both have major roles. The first is Allison Cromartie, whom Gabe believes to be a nurse, but after saving his life by rear ending him while someone tries to shoot into his car, he discovers that she is actually an undercover Secret Service Agent. The second woman owns a large pasture with stables outside Washington and ends up being a key figure in the unfolding drama. With both of these women working within the medical field or scientific research, it leaves you wondering how far they would go to emphasis their presence in a man's world.

I really enjoyed the way that Palmer keeps you guessing throughout the book. I always enjoy a good mystery and find myself trying to figure things out before they are revealed. As the story began to wrap up, I felt very proud of myself and was almost certain I had figured everything out... then the ending came, and there was a very unexpected and delightful twist. Palmer really does bring the story full circle at the end and things that happened throughout came together perfectly, like putting in the last piece of a puzzle.

I happened to pick this book up at the library on a whim after my attention was caught by the title. This previous week, I attended a local book sale (Thanks Trish and Laura for taking me along) and happened to come across another book by Michael Palmer, which I quickly picked up and put in my bag. I am always looking for new authors to read, and feel like I have found yet another one I can enjoy!


Laura said...

I don't generally gravitate towards mysteries, especially medical mysteries, but this book definitely sounds like a good one to start with! It also sounds like it would make a great movie!

Kari said...

Laura - I would definitely recommend this book!! I hadn't thought about a movie aspect, but you're right, it would make a great movie. I always think books that deal with figure heads are interesting, whether they are fictional or not.

Thanks for stopping by!

Trish said...

Yay for discovering new authors! I haven't heard of this particular author and the book sounds really technical (even after reading your definition I'm still not clear as to what nanotechnology is!!), but I love strong female characters and of course a good twist. Great review, Kari!