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A straitlaced novice doctor gets initiated into the unorthodox world of a crafty rural sawbones in Taylor's American debut. Barry Laverty is fresh out of school and uncertain about what type of medicine he should practice when he answers an ad for a physician's assistant in Ballybucklebo, a small Northern Ireland town populated, it seems, entirely by eccentrics. Laverty is initially taken aback by his new boss, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, whom he meets as O'Reilly is literally throwing a patient out of his office. Laverty spends most of the novel swaying between understanding O'Reilly's methods and second-guessing the boxer turned doctor who dishes out plenty of placebos and isn't above telling a white lie or a crude joke to worried patients. Though Laverty often comes across as painfully uptight, he also has an endearing-for-its-awkwardness streak that only surfaces around Patricia Spence, though she'd rather focus on her civil engineering studies than make time for a boyfriend. Serving as a foil to all the innocent fun is the lecherous, greedy Councillor Bishop, who, thanks to a scheming O'Reilly and a reluctant Laverty, gets his comeuppance. Despite the occasional whimsy overload, Taylor's novel makes for escapist, delightful fun. (Feb.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.