New York Times bestselling author Michael Palmer scores again with his ninth outing, The Patient, a slick and intriguing mix of medical thrills and international espionage. True to form, Palmer ratchets up the suspense with every turn of the page, incorporating a fast-paced plot with a cast of unforgettable characters. And this time out, one of the most intriguing characters is ARTIE, a mechanical marvel of medical science and bioengineering that holds the capability of advancing neurosurgery light-years ahead. Ironically, this advance may also lead to the deaths of thousands.
Neurosurgeon Jessie Copeland is a brilliant and talented woman doctor in a field dominated by testosterone. One of the worst offenders is Carl Gilbride, the chief of neurosurgery and Jessie's immediate superior. Jessie is hired by Gilbride to help him develop a biomechanical device that will revolutionize brain surgery, a device that Jessie is far more experienced in using. But when the device is ready to be tested on humans, the egocentric Gilbride snatches a chance for fame and glory by using it on an Olympic gymnast who is diagnosed with a simple brain tumor.
The surgery is a resounding success, and the new device, named ARTIE for Assisted Robotic Tissue Incision and Extraction, is in all the headlines. It attracts the attention of Claude Malloche, a chameleonlike terrorist responsible for more than 500 deaths worldwide. Malloche has a deadly brain tumor that can't be operated on by normal means; ARTIE, therefore, is his only hope, and Malloche will kill anyone who gets in his way. Jessie finds out about Malloche when a rogue CIA agent named Alex Bishop solicits her help. Bishop's brother was one of Malloche's victims, and Bishop has spent five years tracking the man. Bishop knows about Malloche's brain tumor and is certain the killer will show up at Jessie's hospital in hopes of being operated on with ARTIE. The problem is that Bishop doesn't know what Malloche looks like.
Gilbride, starstruck by all the attention he gets from the first ARTIE procedure, decides to perform a second one. But this time the case is far more complex, and he bungles the operation. In the end, he is forced to call for Jessie to bail him out. Shortly thereafter, Malloche's identity is revealed, and his wife, along with a small band of henchmen, takes the entire neurosurgery unit hostage and coerces Jessie into performing surgery on Malloche's tumor. Not only are the lives of all the patients and staff on the neurosurgery unit at risk, but Jessie learns Malloche has planted a number of deadly nerve gas bombs around town, each one set to be triggered if Jessie refuses or in any way bungles the procedure. Now Jessie must perform a procedure that risks not just one life but thousands. She and Alex have a few tricks of their own, but the stakes are frighteningly high and the price of failure devastating.
Physician Palmer, who spent 20 years working in emergency care and internal medicine, brings the medical aspects to such vivid life you can almost smell the alcohol. The life-and-death race of the neurosurgical problems Jessie faces would provide plenty of thrills all alone. But Palmer adds to the intrigue with an ever-escalating plot of psychological suspense that pits the wits of a gifted and caring neurosurgeon against a cold-blooded killer who has nothing to lose. If you suffer from high blood pressure or a racing pulse, you might want to get a doctor's note before reading this one.