Indie book review: THE SIXTH SENSE by Lawrence Gold, MD

Book review of The Sixth Sense by Lawrence W. Gold, MD.
Indie medical thriller (Brier Medical series #3). No star rating given for indies. (Why?)

SUMMARY (from amazon): Arnie Roth, a family practitioner, develops viral encephalitis. He awakens from the near-death experience with a new appreciation for life and an unexpected talent, his sensitivity to smell has increased a thousandfold. At first Arnie is enthralled with his talented nose as he savors the aromatic delights of his world. Soon, however, Arnie discovers that all smells are not sweet and many come with unsolicited messages that profoundly affect his psyche. Arnie can detect danger, disease, drugs, contaminated food and medications, and he senses when his wife is horny. He smells when people are lying to him. Arnie’s nose captures molecules beyond smell, the invisible chemicals that effect human behavior known as pheromones, his sixth sense. Soon the surge of aromas inundates Arnie and puts his sanity in jeopardy.

ScienceThrillers REVIEW: The Sixth Sense (Brier Hospital Series) is a medical-themed novel set in the Berkeley / San Francisco Bay Area starring family physician Arnie Roth. This third book in Lawrence Gold’s Brier Medical series tells two separate stories that are loosely connected. First, Arnie nearly succumbs to viral encephalitis. He awakens from a coma with a super-human enhancement of his sense of smell (the “sixth sense” of the title). This power gives him extraordinary abilities to make diagnoses and more (he can even sniff out lies), but burdens him with a sensory overload that ultimately overwhelms.

In an independent plot line, some of Arnie’s patients suffer devastating consequences when an unethical pharmacist decides to save his business from bankruptcy by diluting prescription medicines.

STRENGTHS: Arnie is a likeable guy that any person would want to be their doctor. He has a loving wife, daughters, a great bedside manner, and a genuine desire to do the right thing. He stands up to an HMO and chooses what is best for the patient. The transformation of his sense of smell is an original and interesting plot element that highlights the social role of smell in our lives, and suggests ways hypersensitive olfaction could be both useful and distressing.

In this book, author/physician Gold gives us wonderful anecdotal scenes from a family practice. The reader gets glimpses of how a family doc is part physician, part detective, part counselor. Gold also accurately describes how various conditions, from breast cancer to common colds, are treated, and addresses cases of hypochondria and drug-seeking addicts.

The diluted pharmaceuticals plot is “ripped from the headlines” and could really happen.

WEAKNESSES: The main problem with The Sixth Sense is its poorly structured story line. As described above, there are some excellent elements and scenes but they are not woven together in a cohesive whole. Timelines are distorted (for example, 18 months in the life of a breast cancer patient pass without clear reference to time in the main character’s life). The pharmacy story and the olfaction story feel like material for two separate books, not one, so neither draws the reader in early enough in the novel. Shifts from first person to third person point of view are sometimes jarring.

If you like this book you might like books by Richard Mabry.

FCC disclaimer: A free e-copy of this book was given to me for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.

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3 Responses to Indie book review: THE SIXTH SENSE by Lawrence Gold, MD

  1. Dee says:

    Thanks Amy! Can’t wait to read your book…just got it.

  2. Dee says:

    This sounds like a good read. I’m curious as to how the swelling in his brain caused by the viral encephalitis led to his sense of smell being so magnified. This reminds me of a short I once read where a man miraculously developed congenital insensitivity to pain. He was happy, at first, but things slowly took a turn for the worse.

    • Amy Rogers says:

      Dee, thanks for visiting

      In THE SIXTH SENSE, no particular biomedical explanation is given for the change in the character’s sense of smell (it would indeed be hard to “explain”). The author’s interest is in the effects this change has on the character. Definitely something like what you describe in the other story.

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