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The Society    by Michael Palmer order for
by Michael Palmer
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Though classified as a mystery, The Society is much more. Michael Palmer has captured the essence of ongoing social reform pleas of HMO's. He delivers a story filled with action and suspense, with a strong social-care premise. Managed-care executives are being brutally murdered by a serial killer. The perpetrator is vengeful, cunning, ruthless - and perhaps not working alone. Letters left at the scene are the only clues available to one of the protagonists, Detective Patricia Moriarity. The letters build into a cryptic message that grows with each crime committed. Patricia eventually is taken off the case and is endangered herself.

At Fredrickston Surgical Associates in Boston, co-protagonist Will (a.k.a. Willard) Grant is a surgeon in a partnership of four. Will is a hero to his associates, patients, and members of the Hippocrates Society. The Society exists for the purpose of rallying against the constricting regulations of managed-care, which consistently strain physicians' decisions that require HMO approval. Will and his associates find themselves spending more time on the paperwork of managed-care activity than in taking care of needy patients. Soon, Will becomes a suspect and a victim in a deadly game. After he passes out, lab tests show illegal drugs in his system. Will is suspended by the hospital board, on the edge of losing everything - his medical career, friends, and time with his children.

I found the pages covering the start of the fire in the ICU at the hospital to the story's end overdone and dragged out, slowing the momentum and hampering the story's progression. However the novel stars interesting characters, and incorporates a vast knowledge of legal, medical, and police procedures. The human exasperation with managed-care is commendably expressed. The Society is well-written, with a plausible plot, and even-paced drama. And I applaud all authors, who take a stand within their stories with regard to social issues.

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