Beautiful and brilliant Albanian-American medical student Pia Grazdana battles demons from her experience in foster care. Raised in foster care starting at age six after the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father, Pia has trust issues and difficulties relating to others.
World famous researcher Dr. Tobias Rothman, a stern and distant but brilliant scientist, is well aware of Pia’s past. He has taken Pia under his wing in his study of tissue regeneration based on stem-cell science. Because of the solitude and security that medical research offers, Pia is attracted to biological science research, which is “unfolding its mysteries at an ever-increasing, mind-boggling speed.”
"Cook’s fans, as well as readers who enjoy plot-focused and detail-rich medical thrillers with a strong bent on political issues, should enjoy DEATH BENEFIT."
When word leaks out that Dr. Rothman and his assistant, Dr. Junichi Yamamoto, are about to announce a life-altering medical breakthrough that will affect the lives of countless patients, not everyone is pleased. Their breakthrough, which will allow use of a patient's stem cells to grow replacement organs, could prolong the lives of the sick, diseased and elderly. Extending the lives of these at-risk patients threatens the bottom line of a death benefits company that offers life insurance policies to people who need ready funds to pay for medical treatments and other expenses. With billions of dollars at stake, the company principals take desperate measures to protect their investments.
As they conduct research on a lethal strain of salmonella virus, Doctors Rothman and Yamamoto become infected. While investigators and officials attribute the researchers’ exposure to the virus as an unfortunate accident, Pia becomes convinced their infection was intentional. With the help of a lovestruck classmate, Pia digs deeper into the situation and puts her career --- and her life --- in jeopardy.
While DEATH BENEFIT starts off slowly and includes long passages of detailed medical terminology, the book’s topic of stem-cell research is timely and intriguing. Told from multiple points of view, Robin Cook’s 400-plus-page novel touches on a variety of issues, including the dark side of cutting-edge medical research, the inner workings of the Albanian-American mob, the life insurance industry, ruthless and greedy investors, the failure of America’s foster care system, autism and a failing healthcare system.
Cook’s fans, as well as readers who enjoy plot-focused and detail-rich medical thrillers with a strong bent on political issues, should enjoy DEATH BENEFIT.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on January 12, 2012