Skip to main content

Critical Condition


Critical Condition

I've told both of the people who love me that under no
circumstances am I ever to be anesthetized. Nope. Give me a bullet
to bite on but don't put me under. I want to know what's going on.
Shoot me first. I also never want to be a hospital inpatient again.
Hospitals have things like needles and urinary catheters and anal
probes. If I'm far enough down the chute that I need that stuff,
then just grease the slide and give me a shove. It's just how I
feel. Accordingly, if you throw an open book at me that happens to
be a medical thriller I'll be sucked right in. Like right now. I'll
read about it; I obviously don't mind being vicariously terrified.
It's an uphill battle, anyway --- nothing in any book could compare
to the horror of dealing with a medical insurance carrier. But
Peter Clement tries. And, with CRITICAL CONDITION, he succeeds,

Clement's primary vocation is medicine; he used to head up a
hospital emergency room until sanity took hold and he started a
private practice. He could sit back and write all of the time if
CRITICAL CONDITION and his past novels, such as MUTANT and THE
PROCEDURE, are any indication. His medical background, however,
provides him with plenty of fodder for subject matter, as well as
for, uh, somewhat grisly descriptions of what happens to bodies
when they are subjected to certain traumatic procedures, medical
and otherwise.

CRITICAL CONDITION, as with most of Clement's novels, begins by
mentally grabbing the reader and never letting go. After a brief,
momentarily confusing introduction (all is made clear in due time),
the reader is transported to the mind of Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, who
has just experienced a stroke. Her lover, Dr. Richard Steele, is
head of the emergency room at a Manhattan hospital. Dr. Sullivan is
rushed to the selfsame hospital where she is placed in the care of
Dr. Tony Hamlin, a brilliant neurosurgeon who has had an incredible
success rate with stroke victims. Unable to speak yet fully aware
of what is going on around her and what is being done to her, Dr.
Sullivan finds herself subjected to a regimen of experiments that
are almost certain to kill her. Her only hope is to somehow
communicate to Dr. Steele what is happening to her, even though
that knowledge will put him at even greater personal risk than she
herself faces.

Clement's pacing in CRITICAL CONDITION is just about perfect,
combining mystery, suspense, and mayhem in equal parts and building
to a conclusion that is both terrifying and satisfying. Clement
continues to plow fertile ground with his subject matter, and
considering the medical advances that occur on an almost daily
basis, it is doubtful that he will run out of subjects on which to
base his future novels. This is good news for Clement, and even
better news for his readership.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Critical Condition
by Peter Clement

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0345443403
  • ISBN-13: 9780345443403