The Fifth Vial Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Fifth Vial

This story is about three separate people who, in very different ways, get involved in the unethical sale of organs and who by chance meet in the end with the same goal of ending the practice once and for all. Natalie Reyes is a medical resident in Boston who has a lung removed after being kidnapped in Rio, but when her insurance company finds no record of her hospitalization, she goes back, determined to find out what happened. At the same time, a young boy is killed in Florida by a semi truck but with wounds that indicate he was a bone marrow donor, so Ben Callahan, a private investigator in Chicago, is hired by a professor who oversees the transplant trade, to find out who he is and what happened to him Meanwhile, in Cameroon, a brilliant scientist has discovered a treatment that will save millions, but doesn't trust the drug company that wants to buy it, and he must decide soon because he himself is dying from pulmonary fibrosis and he refuses to get a transplant. The three stories are intertwined but seem totally separate until you begin to get a glimmer of what is really happening.
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When Natalie goes to Rio to present a paper she is kidnapped by her cab driver, removed from the car and, when she escapes, chased and then shot because she gets away too fast, having almost made the Olympic track team. When she awakens, her mentor, who sent her there, is taking her back to Boston, but she has one less lung. She recovers well and when her insurance company finds no record of her having been in the hospital, and she calls and trhere is no record, she goes back to Rio to find out what is going on and finds herself smack in the middle of the most unethical organ transplant scheme she could imagine.

Callahan, hired by a professor at the University of Chicago who is on a committee to be sure transplants are handled ethically, goes down to Florida to identify the dead boy with the tell tale signs of bone marrow transplant. He does, with the help of a psychic, and he manages to follow the trail to Ohio, thanks to a man who got the license plate of an RV the boy was in. He finds the boy was from Idaho and had is blood drawn at a hospital in town, who always took an extra blood sample and sent it to Texas. It was the one with the green plug. From there he went to Texas and when he saw the RV there, knew he was on to something. And he also found he was going to Rio.

Dr. Anson, while working in the jungle with his patients, goes into respiratory distress and is finally convinced to have a lung transplant when they find a 12 point match donor, which means few anti-rejection drugs will be needed. He is told he is having it done in India.

The one common thread that we, the reader see, but that the participants don't, is that the same hospital group is involved in blood drawing, Natalie's lung resection and Dr. Anson's transplant. As each of their suspicions separately grow, they are all determined, in their own way, to stop the harvesting of organs from unwilling donors. In Ben's case, he is trying to stop them from killing a woman for her heart, which is where he meets Natalie, who is also trying to shut them down, yet no one, knows who is truly behind it all until Dr. Anson places his ace in the hole - his cure in exchange for the information he desires.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked how the author wove all three stories together and kept each unique and interesting, all the while challenging the reader to find the links.

Best scene in story: I liked when she was in the ER and the arrogant senior resident made her suture up a boy whose face was cut badly by a knife, and she keeps thinking the only thing she's practiced on were ripped pants, shirts, etc. and now this guy wants to walk away and offer no guidance to her. So she realizes he doesn't care because the kid is poor and she, with the support of the experienced ER nurse, does a bang up job.

Opinion about the main character: I like that no matter what happens she keeps going and doesn't give up.

The review of this Book prepared by Julie Segraves a Level 3 Eurasian Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Fifth Vial

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 20%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) Medical Thriller    -   Yes Medical Plotlets:    -   selling organs Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   doctor Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Race    -   Black Unusual characteristics:    -   Cynical or arrogant


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast The Americas (not US):    -   Yes The Americas:    -   South

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Michael Palmer Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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