Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons

By Ekta R. Garg

February 19, 2014

Rated: Borrow it

A chief surgical resident’s career, just on the rise, suddenly takes a nosedive into a downward spiral.  Someone has engineered an elaborate plot to bring him down—but who?  And why?  And what is the resident going to do to get things back on track?  Physician and debut novelist Kelly Parsons shows just how scary hospitals can be in his book Doing Harm.

Steve Mitchell knows what he wants from his career: after finishing his residency at Boston’s premier University Hospital he hopes to join the faculty as a professor and combine his academic career with his professional one.  A strong hint from the chairman of the department props up Steve’s confidence, and he doesn’t doubt that things will continue to go well.

His confidence borders on arrogance, however, and he gets a full dose of the instability of life when a major surgery under his supervision goes wrong.  Within a matter of hours things get worse when another struggling patient dies due to a mistake on Steve’s part.  The star chief resident poised to take a faculty position now finds himself fighting just to stay in the hospital.

He tries to absorb how quickly his life has turned around, and he begins to look for hints of just what went wrong.  In his search Steve discovers a horrifying truth: someone has made a conscientious decision to bring him down.  The revelation only gets trumped by the fact that the person flaunts it in his face, coming directly in front of him and using personal information against him.  And every effort Steve makes to make things better, every move he takes to combat his enemy, becomes a step into the quicksand that has become his life.  If Steve wants to bring anything in his life back on track, he’s going to have to find a way to alter his adversary’s route.

Author Kelly Parsons shares his in-depth information about the inner workings of a hospital with readers in a way both expert and dramatic.  His solid base of the medical world gives him enough creative license to offer reasonable situations of what can go wrong in the hospital setting.  No doubt some of these situations came from real-life instances.

While Parsons gives purchase to the idea that Steve Mitchell’s overriding egotism becomes his undoing, that same egotism might grate on readers after a while.  Because Steve narrates the story in first person, readers get a firsthand look at just how highly he thinks of himself.  At some points readers might start to feel that Steve has gotten what he deserves.  Physicians reading this book might agree, as a pervading opinion exists among non-surgeon physicians that surgeons think unnecessarily too much of themselves.

Given the relatively small cast of characters, readers might find it easy to guess the identity of Steve’s nemesis.  Also, when the enemy confronts Steve, the person’s rationale for the inflammatory actions may prove just a little too difficult to believe.  The conviction of the foe may come across as earnest, but the logic stretches the boundaries of credibility.

Despite a few dragging points, however, Parsons manages to save a few surprises for readers.  Anyone who likes to get a true inside look at high-energy, high-risk workplaces will enjoy this book.  Others who enjoy a thrill might also enjoy it, but be prepared for a little too much Steve in some places.

I recommend this book for those who enjoy thrillers and drama.

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