A young woman from a prominent Boston medical family dies after being rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding. Karen Randall appears to have suffered from a botched abortion, dying of substantial blood loss. Her father, J.D. Randall, a feared and powerful neurosurgeon, is looking for a scapegoat to take the fall. It appears that Dr. Arthur Lee is being railroaded for her death despite seemingly innocent of the crime. Even Lee's lawyer is backing away from his client. The only person on Dr. Lee's side is Dr. John Berry, a friend of the accused and a pathologist who is piecing together the facts of the case to try to save Lee's freedom and career. As he discovers new facts and the deceased girl's history things just don't add up. He learns Karen hated her father and stepmother, while she enjoyed shocking people and being thought of as wild to her acquaintances and roommate at Smith College where she was a freshman.
As Berry digs deeper, he meets with a colleague and psychologist, Dr. Fritz Werner, who is aware of the young woman's mental issues as well as Dr. Peter Randall, Karen's physician and uncle. He speaks with Karen's brother, college roommate, summer roommates and others and is given a picture of a young black musician Karen was dating at one time. J.D. Randall applies police pressure on Berry hoping he will back away from the case, but Berry, a former policeman, is not easily intimidated. Berry meets with George Wilson, the new lawyer for Lee. They try to talk with the girl's father to talk some sense into him but they see the two brothers, J.D. and Peter, driving away with a supposedly stolen Mercedes sedan. They follow and photograph the two men torching the vehicle and pushing it over a cliff. It becomes obvious that Wilson wants to see the case go to court for the publicity it will bring. Unfortunately for Dr. Lee any courtroom trial will ruin his career. Berry now must do everything he can to find the real culprit in this tragedy.
Peter Randall invites Berry to come over for dinner so that he will meet his alibi and prove he wasn't the one who performed the fatal procedure. His alibi is the wife of his brother, whom he was with the night of Karen's death and has been sleeping with for a number of months. Berry tracks down Roman Jones, the young man from the photo, in a bad part of town. Berry follows him through the back streets of the Combat Zone before he is jumped and severely injured. He is brought with a severe head wound and substantial blood loss to the hospital where his friend Dr. Nolan Hammond is the resident on duty. Berry manages to convince Hammond that the night will get more deadly in the ER as he expects more fallout from the situation.
Hours later Jones arrives in critical condition, unable to be resuscitated. Next to arrive is Angela Harding, the one time roommate of Karen Randall's and a nurse at the hospital. She has slash injuries typical of those of an attempted suicide. She is also the niece of Dr. Weston, the chief pathologist. Angela is induced into confessing what she knows of the crimes and the role she and Roman play in stealing drugs from the hospital. Berry visits the crime scene and finds there is still one unanswered piece of the riddle and it may implicate a very prominent physician in the night's drama. Michael Crichton writing as Jeffrey Hudson in his Edgar Award winning first novel shows the knowledge and skill that would later make him a world famous author of novels, screenplays, and television drama and a movie director.
This report prepared by David Fletcher
Dr. Art Lee is jailed for performing an illegal abortion resulting in the death of a prominent physician's daughter. Dr. John Berry, Art's friend, knows Art is innocent and sets out to prove it. He encounters resistance and apathy from most people, but he tenaciously searches for the real abortionist to clear his friend's name.
This report prepared by T. M. C.