Deadly Medicine

by Leonard S. Goldberg

(good; ~30th percentile for SciThri genre)

Year published: 1992
Category: medical thriller; mystery; series (#1)

Tech rating (out of 5):

SUMMARY (modified from the inside cover):

Forensic pathologist Joanna Blalock was told by her superior at Los Angeles Memorial Hospital not to probe too deeply in her autopsy of the lovely young nurse who plunged to her death from the hospital roof.

Instead Joanna dismisses the smoke-screen of suicide to expose the horrifying truth—it was murder, the work of a serial killer with an obscene trademark.

With police detective Jake Sinclair at her side, Joanna cuts through layers of deception and political intrigue to get at the truth. In the meantime, the body count rises, and her own life is in jeopardy.


Deadly Medicine is a solidly written, easy to enjoy medical thriller in the traditional format of Robin Cook or Michael Palmer. It has a pronounced mystery / police procedural component, beginning with a murder and followed by the investigation, pursued by a (strong, beautiful, misunderstood female) forensic pathologist and a (strong, handsome, thick-skinned male) police detective.

At a prestigious Los Angeles hospital, a nurse who is part of a wealthy and powerful area family is dead. Was her mysterious fall from the rooftop of the neuropsychiatric research unit suicide, or something else? What was the young woman doing on the roof in the middle of the night? And what is her ex-boyfriend, a surgeon, trying to hide?

These questions take on a special urgency when dogged pathologist Joanna Blalock concludes the death was murder–and another nurse soon dies. Against the wishes of her administrators, Blalock actively participates in the investigation. Her instincts lead her to the unusual neuropsychiatric research–and new drugs–being pursued at the institute where the dead nurse worked.

The reason I only give this novel two stars is that it’s very formulaic. Granted, author Goldberg follows the formula well, but the book just isn’t as good as the ones written by Michael Palmer. The characters are stereotypic, but quite likeable. Unfortunately I never felt much tension reading this book. The surprises are unsurprising (I had the murderer figured from the get-go), the themes are stale and familiar. Maybe that wasn’t the case when this book first came out in 1992, but quite a few better medical thrillers have been written since then.

Recommend only for readers who can’t get enough of this kind of story.

Parental alert: infrequent use of obscenities; mildly graphic violence

Key words: Los Angeles hospital; borderline personality disorder; psychiatric research institute; psychotropic drugs

If you like traditional medical thrillers, read: books by Michael Palmer

Leonard Goldberg’s Joanna Blalock series:
Deadly Medicine (1992); A Deadly Practice (1994); Deadly Care (1996); Deadly Harvest (1997); Deadly Exposure (1998); Lethal Measures (2000); Fatal Care (2001); Brainwaves (2002); Fever Cell (2003)

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