Review: Death Benefit

Death Benefit
Death Benefit by Robin Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first robin Cook I have read in a while, and stands up to his previous books, giving me a nice thrill, although I did have trouble identifying with the heroine – not because of her previous life experiences, but rather the character that she became from them – scrappy, single-minded focus to the point of absurdity. Pia Grazdani is a 4th year medical student at Columbia, followed by her lapdog friend George, who is so obsessed with her, that he ignores her rude behavior to him, and comes begging for more. Pia is doing an elective in a research lab lead by the cold, but brilliant Dr. Rothmann, with whom Pia finds a compatible soul. He is working on organogenesis (organ growth from tissue samples of the host’s own body), as well as cutting edge work on virulent stains of salmonella. She becomes engrossed in the work, and in the doctor, finds a father figure she never knew.

Meanwhile, two ex Wall Street guys have hit upon a surefire scheme to make money – buying life insurance policies, with death benefits, for pennies on the dollar from cash-strapped people, and then paying the premiums and collecting the benefits when they die. Elaborate calculations have found that those in need of organ replacement are prime examples of certain money. The odds of one of them finding a compatible organ that gives them lots of extra time is outweighed by the chances of not finding an organ, rejection, etc. All goes well, until they find a ex-protegee who is short selling their stock. They go to her to find out why, and since she was rejected by one of them, she decides on some payback. Her in-depth research has led her to Dr. Rothmann and his cutting- edge work on organogenesis and what it would do for the bankers new business – if the organ growing business comes to fruition fairly quickly, and works, as it is suspected, then all those policies they bought will need continual premium payments, causing their business model to fail. They seek outside advice from another fellow who has dabbled in a number of areas, and since he invested heavily in their scheme, as well as setting up a secret competing one, he devises a plan that will fix the problem. But when things start happening, Pia decides to jump in head first, at the cost of angering the hospital, her colleagues, and even her place in medical school, as well as putting herself and George in danger. This is the first book to feature Pia – the next one is “Nano” which I am reading now. As always, a good, fun medical thriller, if a little implausible for the heroine’s absolute single-mindedness, although the author is at pains to explain in detail why she acts the way she does, but still…

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