Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Shadow of Death by Patricia Gussin

I have found a new author who shows great promise for novels and who can write in more than one genre. Patricia Gussin’s first book Shadow of Death features first year medical student Laura Nelson. Laura is the mother of two young children, married to a social worker and determined to succeed as a physician. The setting is the Detroit of the 1967 riots. Her first patient to actually see, touch and do a write-up without performing any medical procedure on is a young man who is non-responsive and was suspected of looting during the riots. His mother responds to Laura’s kindness and reports that Anthony was her “good” son who was studying to go to college and would not have been a looter. His brother Johnny swears he will get retribution from the hospital and the “stringy yellow-haired female” doctor who intubated Anthony wrong, although the intubation had nothing to do with his vegetative state. As Laura is leaving the hospital that evening, she is grabbed by a young man and brutally raped. Laura manages to retrieve the gun her husband insisted that she carry and fatally shot her attacker. She manages to hide the incident from everyone, even her husband. Her best friend in medical school has a father who is a police detective investigating the case and wants to speak to Laura frequently about the case. Over the course of a year, Laura hides her thoughts but lives in fear and tells no one except her supervising doctor in medical school who becomes a close friend. Her fear is enhanced by her pregnancy with twins and not being sure of the paternity of the children; if the children are bi-racial, they are the result of the rape and will be a major unwelcome surprise to husband David. David’s job includes advancements and the chance to employ an assistant, while his ties with his family grow more tenuous through the years and he and Laura drift apart. The story is suspenseful, as Laura’s life continues to be in jeopardy, her home life becomes more chaotic and stressful, and her career path continues to improve. I was surprised to note when finished this novel, that the author has written a sequel which the library also has entitled Twisted Justice. A few weeks before reading Shadow of Death, I read a book entitled The Test which I found really intriguing. When checking Gussin’s listings, I found that she was also the author of The Test. In this novel, patriarch Paul Parnell, a renowned philanthropist and billionaire, dies leaving a very unusual will. Wanting to leave something more valuable than money to his six children, stipulates that his estate will be divided among the heirs who pass “the test” in hopes of inspiring them to give back to society and embrace a code of moral values. They have one year in which to make this difference. Some are faced with their own personal demons and an incredible evil comes into their midst. For some of them, the test becomes a matter of life and death. Rory is married to a family physician and has several children; she leads a happy family life and maintained good ties with Paul. This caused jealousy with some of the other siblings, especially Frank, since Rory was an adopted daughter. Frank is a politician with major ambitions and an ambitious and equally ruthless wife and a very sheltered young daughter. Dan has been estranged from the family for years and lives on his own palm tree farm in Florida having nothing to do with his siblings or his own ex-wife and children. Monica, Carla and Ashley all have their own demons as well – intense shyness, a drug addiction, and being the unknown love child of Paul and a famous actress. A maniacal psychologist infiltrates the family determined to get his hands on the money. How all these people’s lives are intertwined and become more complicated because of the money is an interesting study in varying human nature. Will anyone accomplish what Paul had wanted? Will anyone survive alive? I highly recommend Gussin as a novelist to enjoy now and in the future.

– Anniesse