Ballantine, May 2002, 22.95, 336 pp.
Geneticist Dr. Kathleen Sullivan and ER Chief Dr. Richard Steele are making love when she suddenly collapses in pain from a tremendous headache caused by a massive brain hemorrhage. Kathleen loses almost all movement, as she has become a quadriplegic with several critical bodily reflexes failing. She is reduced to communicating with one wink meaning yes and two winks no.
Dr. Tony Hamlin heads up the medical team with assists from Dr. Jim Norris and Dr. Lockman. The staff tries an illegal experimental infusion through Kathleen's neck. Desperate she struggles to inform her beloved Richard that the crack medical team is using her as a guinea pig before they either kill her or leave her with a malfunctioning brain.
CRITICAL CONDITION is an exciting medical thriller that never slows down due to the intrepid frantic actions of the lead female protagonist. The story belongs to Kathleen whose efforts to convey information is difficult and frustrating to her and to the receiver of her eye lid transmissions. The support cast augments the plot with strong characterizations though the constant reference to Richard's dismal handling of his deceased wife's cancer adds little to the current dilemma except to make the hero seem unreliable when it counts. In this potent story that is unnecessary as Richard is already laden with handicaps such as doubting his peers, dealing with the couple's teenage children from separate marriages, coping with the lack of complex communications, and handling the overall health of his beloved. Each of these is handled with depth and dexterity as they nurture the forward thrust of Peter Clement's exhilarating thriller.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner