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Side Effects (1985)

by Michael Palmer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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335567,393 (3.48)1
Kate Bennett. A bright hospital pathologist with a loving husband and a solid future. Until one day her world turns dark. A strange, puzzling illness has killed two women. Now it endangers Kate's closest friend. Soon it will threaten Kate's marriage. Her sanity. Her life. Kate has uncovered a horrifying secret. Important people will stop at nothing to protect it. It is a terrifying medical discovery. And its roots lie in one of the greatest evils in the history of humankind.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
In Side Effects, Kate Bennet is a pathologist at a New England hospital, who has two female patients who have inexplicably bled to death. A third patient, a friend of hers, is exhibiting the same symptoms, and Kate must figure out why this is happening, although nothing is readily apparent. Meanwhile, she is going through marital issues with her husband.

There was very little to like about this novel. First of all, the characters are weak. Kate is mildly interesting as a character, but most of the other characters blended together. Her husband, Jared, is a self-centered, sniveling, whiner, who has nothing likeable about him. He keeps on complaining because Kate doesn’t revolve her life around him. Well, she’s a doctor. If he wanted this, he should have married a housewife. So, when at the end of the novel he all of a sudden becomes heroic, I wasn’t buying it for a second. Secondly, once again the antagonist is the evil pharmaceutical company. The malevolent drug company has become so tired and cliché that I can no longer even tolerate reading about it. Is it too much to ask of an author to get some originality? This is a novel that brings little to the table and I would recommend skipping.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street ( )
  Carl_Alves | Dec 7, 2014 |
In a Boston hospital two women, seemingly unconnected, are discovered to have died from the same condition, one no one has seen before. Pathologist Kate Bennett is already intrigued by the case but when her friend is admitted to the hospital with some of the same symptoms that the two women presented with prior to their deaths she becomes determined to uncover the problem. Of course there are shady forces, some close to home, who are just as determined that she will not find out the truth and thus begins the ride.

The overall story arc of Side Effects is not much of a shock: big, unethical pharmaceutical company versus a caring doctor who puts patient safety above all other considerations. But within that familiar framework there were more than enough threads to unravel and characters whose level of evilness was unclear to keep me happy, though I’ll admit to being a bit of a sucker for a medical thriller. Written in 1984 this one is pleasantly unencumbered by the today’s obsession with bio terrorism and harks back to a gentler time when good old fashioned greed was the motivator of choice for most criminals/businessmen. Throw in a possible connection to Nazi experimenters and you have yourself a roller coaster of a story and although the ending was dramatic it didn’t go over the top as so many in this genre tend to do which is another point in its favour.

Kate Bennett is a good choice for a central character, nice enough that you want her to prevail but with human enough foibles to worry that she might not. She struggles with a husband who can’t quite bring himself to think of her career is as important as his own and the portrayal of her conflict with career over personal life offers an interesting slant. Her husband Gerard is fairly annoying, at least from a woman’s perspective, though credible and there’s a bit more depth to him than you might expect to find in a thriller of this type.

This is an above average entrant in this genre, playing nicely to the fears many people have when faced with incomprehensible medical emergencies and also reaching out to the conspiracy theorist within us all. It’s fast, entertaining and recommended.

What about the audio book?

I’ve no idea what the percentages actually are but it feels like far more audio books are narrated by men than women so it’s nice to hear a female voice telling a story for a change and Angela Dawe does an excellent job with both male and female characters.

Rating = 3.5/5 ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
My blog post about this book is at this link.
( )
  SuziQoregon | Mar 31, 2013 |
Did this book really need to be tied to Nazis? Probably not. But it was an entertaining read. Felt a lot more like Robin Cook than the other Michael Palmer book I've read. ( )
  miyurose | Dec 12, 2008 |
Not my cup of tea:( The character development was lacking and the story went on too long. Too many loose ends. ( )
  debavp | Jan 29, 2008 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Palmerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nivala, LeenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kate Bennett. A bright hospital pathologist with a loving husband and a solid future. Until one day her world turns dark. A strange, puzzling illness has killed two women. Now it endangers Kate's closest friend. Soon it will threaten Kate's marriage. Her sanity. Her life. Kate has uncovered a horrifying secret. Important people will stop at nothing to protect it. It is a terrifying medical discovery. And its roots lie in one of the greatest evils in the history of humankind.

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