January 25, 2010

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

BOOK #: 3
REASON READ: 100+ Challenge; Random Reading Challenge; RYOB; Countdown Challenge; New Authors; A to Z Titles Challenge
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown
GENRE: Fiction, Medical Fiction
FORMAT/PAGES: Hardcover/304
RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

"Still, it would be dishonest to place the origin of my becoming a doctor in my love and respect for my grandparents, since I don't believe I even considered going to medical school until eight years after they were murdered." -pg. 22
Peter Brown is just your ordinary medical resident shuffling his way through Manhattan Catholic- that is if your ordinary medical resident is actually a former mafia hit man who is now in the witness protection program. Peter's new identity is shattered when one morning a patient recognizes him as Pietro Brnwa, or Bearclaw. It is like a horrible train wreck that you don't want to look at but can't take your eyes off of. And it is fascinating.

Bazell writes an intriguing and intricately woven medical drama/gangster thriller. The back story is as rich and vibrant as the present story, which the book goes back and forth between. I love the story of Auschwitz, of the Lucano family, of Pietro and Magdalena's great love, and of how Peter deals with having his cover blown.

Parts are hard to believe (Can you really do that to your leg? Do mobsters really discuss the details of a hit at the sauna and think they are safe as long as they don't actually say they are mobsters?) and some parts are just downright witty (I love Mershawn. He should have been in more of the book.) and some parts, like the footnotes, solve great medical and mobster mysteries such as how to get around leaving your footprints behind at a crime scene, and why malpractice suits are not as good an idea as your attorney would have you think.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It took me a while before I could decide whether I liked the ending, but as I was talking to @vasilly on Twitter one day she said how she hoped there would be a sequel and I was thinking how a sequel would tie up all the loose ends to the one story line that did not get resolved. I could definitely go for a sequel. I think there are many more tales that Peter/Pietro could tell.

Things you should be aware of:
  • Strong language
  • Some graphic violence
  • Some graphic medical situations
Other Reviews/Opinions on Beat the Reaper:
~books I done read
~The New Dork Review of Books
~Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
~Bermudaonion's Weblog
~She is Too Fond of Books
~Rhapsody in Books Weblog

If I missed the link to your review, please let me know!


  1. Sounds like a good read. I've been following you on twitter, but haven't followed your blog. I'm going to subscribe now...

    Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

  2. The description of this book alone made me squeal. I'm sure you know this is not for me. :)

    On the other hand, I saw your new header and it's beautiful.

  3. I really enjoyed this one too, even though I literally read one scene (I think you know which one) between my fingers! Great review.

  4. I liked this book a lot as well (despite the strong language).

  5. I've been going back and forth in regards to reading this one but your awesome review has confirmed that I must read it for sure this year! Strong language and graphic violence doesn't bother me.

  6. Oh Goodie! This is on my list for 2010 ... I'm glad it was good.

  7. I'm hearing nothing but great things about this one!

  8. You are so right! Mershawn is a great character! We should have seen more of him. I forgot about him until I read your review just now. Great review.

  9. Interesting plot line, combining the medical world with gangsters! Great review.

  10. I loved this one too. I know Josh Bazell is working on another book, and I've heard it's a sequel. I'm looking forward to it!

  11. I've heard good things about this one, but the cover still turnds me off. Sometimes a cover makes a difference when I go to pick up a book.

  12. I listened to this on audio, and I'll tell you, it totally motivated me to keep going back to the treadmill (I only allow myself to listen while I'm working out).

    I agree with you on the warnings about language and violence - not one you can put on the CD player at home with kids around!

    Thanks for linking to my review, Rebecca.

  13. Well, at least he's doing something worthwhile now that he's in witness protection. He went to med school before the residency, right? ;)


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