Critical Conditions

( 13 )


Alan Gregory is called to the ICU before anyone knows the patient's name or what dark demons drove her to attempt suicide. But fifteen-year-old Merritt Strait is no ordinary depressed teenager. The daughter of a hard-charging investigative reporter and a psychologist, she is also the stepsister of a little girl at the heart of a medical tragedy in the making. While Merritt clings to life in her hospital room, Chaney Strait lies near death in another hospital with an infection that is slowly destroying her heart. ...
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Alan Gregory is called to the ICU before anyone knows the patient's name or what dark demons drove her to attempt suicide. But fifteen-year-old Merritt Strait is no ordinary depressed teenager. The daughter of a hard-charging investigative reporter and a psychologist, she is also the stepsister of a little girl at the heart of a medical tragedy in the making. While Merritt clings to life in her hospital room, Chaney Strait lies near death in another hospital with an infection that is slowly destroying her heart. Denied an experimental new treatment that could save her life by the Straits' managed-care provider, Chaney has become a symbol of a health care system driven by costs, not care. And Alan believes that somewhere along the way, Merritt has gotten lost in all the media attention surrounding her younger sibling. But as Merritt begins to recover, yet still refuses to speak, Alan suspects that something else may lie behind her suicide attempt. Then a wealthy executive of the family's HMO is found dead ... and Alan and Denver detective Sam Purdy uncover shocking evidence that links Merritt to his death. With his wife, Boulder County D.A. Lauren Crowder, away helping out her ailing mother at the risk of her own fragile health, Alan must sort through the most complex and elusive case of his career, along with his own feelings of loneliness, anger, and helplessness.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Critical Conditions is another pulse-pounding psychological romp featuring the charming crack psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory. Gregory is called in after Merritt Strait -- a 15-year-old girl whose stepsister is on the verge of death following her HMO's refusal to allow an experimental yet potentially lifesaving operation -- allegedly attempts to end her own life. Soon the HMO's leading executive is found dead, and evidence -- shockingly enough -- points to Merritt as the murderer.
Publishers Weekly
Psychologist Alan Gregory is brought in to evaluate 15-year-old Merritt Strait after her attempted suicide. The teenager has had a complicated life: her stepsister is dying from a heart ailment that might be helped by an experimental treatment, but that treatment isn't covered by the family's HMO. When the head of said evil HMO is shot and killed, the evidence points toward Merritt as the prime suspect. Alan, along with his police friend (and Merritt's uncle), Sam Purdy, begin an investigation that will expose blackmail, extortion and dark family secrets. The usually reliable Dick Hill gives a disappointing performance; his overall delivery is so low-key and measured that he doesn't bring the energy necessary to spark this thriller to life. A Signet paperback. (July)
Library Journal
In his sixth suspense novel, White (Remote Control, LJ 1/97) and his protagonist psychologist Alan Gregory take on managed healthcare and come up with another compulsive read. A 15-year-old girl attempts suicide and turns mute, her two-year-old sister is dying from a rare disease while her health insurer won't pay for expensive experimental treatment, and the doctor who heads the insurance company is found shot to death. While Gregory treats the teenager and consults with police, his cop friend Sam Purdy (an in-law of principals in the case) has to keep his distance, and complications mount. White ties up all the loose ends, concerning death threats, blackmail, murder, extortion, and suicide, after a spine-tingling chase through the conveyor system of the new Denver airport. But he leaves strings dangling regarding his appealing cast of continuing characters (such as Gregory's wife Lauren's health and neighbor Adrienne's love life), guaranteeing anticipation for number seven. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/97.]Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.
Kirkus Reviews
Boulder psychologist Alan Gregory confronts a hapless family's mismanaged-care nightmare, in White's overstuffed sixth thriller. The toddler of Alan's newly transplanted colleague, John Trent, has been stricken with a rare strain of viral myocarditis for which MedExcel, the family's HMO, refuses the only available treatment as too experimental; meanwhile, his wife, TV news personality Brenda Strait, is being harassed by threats and vandalism. As their daughter Chaney lies dying for lack of funds, Trent wonders how much worse things could get. Here's how much: Brenda's daughter Merritt, 15, tries to kill herself, gets dragged back to life refusing to speak, and turns out to be hiding a handgun and a bloody outfit that tie her to the murder of Dr. Edward Robilio, the founder and chairman of MedExcel. Assigned to Merritt's case, Alan finds crippling new connections among the characters at every turn. His cop friend Sam Purdy is the brother-in-law Brenda's been feuding with for years. Dr. Terence Gusman, who chairs the medical exam review board at MedExcel, is the brother of a woman fatally traumatized by Brenda's hard-nosed reporting. Even Alan's urologist neighbor Adrienne, who's been sleeping with the Trent/Strait's lawyer, thinks she prefers the lawyer's wife. As he rolls like a fifth wheel from one crime scene to the next and struggles to get his mute patient to open up—even after she starts to talk, her shocking, predictable revelations are delayed by a series of shameless ploys—Alan goggles at the unholy network of lovers, codependents, and betrayers. The result is that White (Remote Control, 1997, etc.) loses his initial focus on the indictment of uncaring HMOs; bythe time you stumble to the center of this labyrinth, you're amazed that the medical community can lift a finger to help this dysfunctional community.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423394679
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Series: Dr. Alan Gregory Series , #6
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs. 8 min.
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen White is a clinical psychologist and the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels, including Kill Me and Dry Ice. He lives in Colorado.


Anyone who has ever tried his or her hand at writing has surely heard the sage advice "write what you know." Stephen White has most-assuredly taken that bit of wisdom to heart in creating his thrilling series of Alan Gregory novels. A clinical psychologist, White has crafted a character with a similar background that has also benefited from his fifteen years of professional practice.

White has been keeping fans of psychological thrillers on the edges of their seats ever since he published his first novel Privileged Information in 1991. The book introduced his literary alter ego Dr. Alan Gregory and made ample use of everything he'd gleaned while working as a practicing psychologist. "There are two benefits of my previous experience as a psychologist that I consider invaluable to my life as a writer," White revealed in an interview on his web site ( "The first is that my work gave me a chance to observe and study the infinite varieties of motivation that human beings have for their behavior. The other is that being a psychotherapist exposed me to dialogue in its purest form. For eight to ten hours a day over a period of fifteen years I had the privilege of sitting and listening to a wide variety of people just talk. I can't imagine a better training ground for writing dialogue."

As for how similar he truly is to his most-famous creation beyond their shared profession, White says, "The similarities don't exactly end there but there's no need to exaggerate them, either. Although neither of us is a model of mental health, his neuroses are different than mine. And he has advantages that I never had as a psychotherapist. First, he has the benefit of all my years of experience. And second, I get to think about his lines as long as I'd like. Real patients never offer that luxury." The resulting debut novel won rave reviews from the likes of The New York Daily News, Publisher's Weekly, and The Library Journal and established White as a writer to watch.

White followed Privileged Information with over a dozen additional installments of the Alan Gregory adventures. The latest may very well be the most exciting and psychologically provocative episode yet. In Kill Me, a happily-married extreme sports enthusiast and patient of Gregory's makes a deal with a clandestine organization called Death Angels Inc. that may very well bring his life to an untimely end. As always, Dr. Alan Gregory is present, but he plays more of a background role than he does in most of White's other novels. Still, fans of White's previous work will surely be captivated by the novel that Booklist has deemed "Bizarre, thrilling, and oh so much fun" and fellow bestselling writer Michael Connelly (Blood Work, The Closers) asserts is "his best yet."

In any event, White has no immediate plans of abandoning Gregory to write a non-series novel. "My series is commercially successful, thanks to all of you," he says. "As important for me as the commercial success is, the fact [is] that the series is also creatively flexible.... [I] anticipate staying with the series as long as the readers are interested..." If that's the case, then readers can expect the Dr. Alan Gregory to have a long and psychologically healthy life.

Good To Know

Contrary to the rumor mill, the Stephen White who created Alan Gregory is not the same Stephen White who has written a series of books about...ahem ... Barney the Purple Dinosaur. However, White admits that he has occasionally signed the other Stephen White's Barney books when asked to.

For those who are wondering what ever happened to the seemingly long-lost book Saints and Sinners, which was excerpted in Private Practices, you may have already read it without even realizing. Shortly before publication, the title Saints and Sinners was changed to Higher Authority. Some interesting outtakes from our interview with White:

"Jonathan Kellerman and I were colleagues in the early 1980's before either of us were novelists. At a time when our nascent field was very small, we were both psychologists specializing in the psychological aspects of childhood cancer. Jon was at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital. I was at The Children's Hospital in Denver."

"My brother is a better writer than I am."

"One of my first jobs was as a tour guide at Universal Studios. I lasted five weeks. That's two weeks longer than I lasted as a creative writing major during my freshman year at the University of California."

"I worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971-72, running the upstairs café, waiting tables, and occasionally doing some cooking. Two of my bosses were Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower. They both cook better than I write. Jeremiah actually writes better than I cook."

"I learned to fly an airplane before I learned to drive a car".

"I'm a lucky man. I've spent much of my adult life in two terrific, rewarding careers. In the first, as a clinical psychologist, I spent eight to twelve hours a day in a room with one other person. In the second, as a writer, I spend a similar number of hours a day in a room with no other person, though sometimes I'm blessed with the company of a dog or two."

"A primary difference between the two experiences? As a psychotherapist, only one other person -- my patient -- typically observed my work. Virtually no one ever critiqued it. As a novelist, literally millions of people observe my work, and most feel no compunction whatsoever about critiquing it. Being a writer is a lovely thing. But adapting to the reality of being read has been a constant source of wonder for me."

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    1. Hometown:
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 20, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Long Island, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., UC Berkeley, 1972; M.A., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1975; Ph.D., 1979
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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