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A Heartbeat Away Hardcover – February 15, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031258752X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312587529
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Palmer (The Last Surgeon) offers a nifty plot premise in this high-concept medical thriller, but a plethora of subplots distracts from the more interesting primary issue. As the U.S. president, James Allaire, is beginning his State of the Union address, a number of small containers of a viral agent explode and infect the more than 700 people, including every important member of the government except the director of homeland security, who have gathered in the House chamber. The Capitol must be sealed off and the infected audience held inside until a cure for the disease can be found. The plotters behind the attack, a group of domestic terrorists known as Genesis, demand, among other things, that the government abolish the Patriot Act and cease unchecked spying on ordinary Americans. Overblown prose does little to make the implausible scenario more believable. Readers with a low tolerance for the hyperbolic are advised to give this one a pass. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Palmer’s early novels were smoothly written, tightly plotted, and memorable. Lately he’s had his ups and downs—more downs than ups, unfortunately—and his latest medical thriller sort of straddles the two. On the upside, it’s got a wicked cool story. Terrorists have let loose a highly virulent virus in the Capitol building on the night of the State of the Union address, forcing the president to lock down the building, trapping inside most of the hierarchy of the American government. Only Griffin Rhodes, a virologist who’s been in prison for allegedly trying to steal the same virus from a research lab, can save the day. On the downside, the writing is, at best, mediocre. The characters are thinly drawn, and the dialogue is wooden and clumsy. This could have been a first-rate thriller; instead, it’s a novel that depends on our loyalty to the author and our interest in its plot, not its characters, to keep us reading. Palmer continues to command an audience, but this is not his best work. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Palmer’s track record (15 medical thrillers, 15 international best-sellers) assures a full-court press on the promotional front, and his latest, though disappointing, will get it, from national print and radio ads to an electronic avalanche. --David Pitt

More About the Author

Michael Palmer, medical thriller author and physician, died unexpectedly on October 30, 2013. Michael wrote 18 novels of medical and political suspense, all international bestsellers. In addition to writing, Palmer served as an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society Physician Health Services, devoted to helping physicians troubled by mental illness, physical illness, behavioral issues, and chemical dependency. His 19th novel RESISTANT will be released on May 20, 2014.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Richard Mabry on February 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've read each of Michael Palmer's books, and from the first scene of A Heartbeat Away I was thinking "This one's his best." When I turned the last page and my heart stopped racing, I hadn't changed my opinion.
During the President's State of the Union address, a terrorist releases a bio-agent in the chamber with potentially fatal consequences, and the only man who can save the group is a scientist the President has had locked away for treason.
The characters are well-drawn, the action is fast-paced, and unfortunately the scenario is believable. I'll say it again. This is Palmer's best so far.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Bull on April 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
We're big Palmer fans, having read his every novel. We usually totally enjoy his medical thrillers, but find a disturbing trend in his two recent books. It seems the author, almost shades of Robin Cook, has run out of stories with a plausible medical plot and somehow feels compelled to branch out into the political arena ala David Baldacci. Our biggest gripe with "Heartbeat", the title itself almost a spoiler, is that it is entirely implausible -- not merely the initial shocking development at the State of the Union address, but virtually every plot turn thereafter. With people escaping secured compounds, stumbling across the one person they are searching for in a city of 10 million, etc. etc, there is almost nothing we found anything but farfetched. We don't remember short chapters (ala Patterson) to be Palmer's style, and to us it did nothing to sustain or create suspense; rather, it just gave us so many scene changes we found ourselves reading two or three pages, then setting the book aside for another time. When it takes us three weeks to read one of our favorite writer's efforts, that time frame tells the whole story. As much as we hate to say it, and we may well be in the minority, we find this to be his worst book to date; and one we found thoroughly unenjoyable. We gave up Robin Cook when he went over and stayed over the top -- we surely hope Palmer's next gets back to what made him great.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By nocalalan on July 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you like one dimensional characters, an improbable series of action scenes, formulaic plotting and an predictable ending, then this one's for you. I thought that a 4 star average on Amazon indicated a potential good read, but it doesn't. Apparently good scientific information, but overshadowed by a pedestrian style of writing. It had all the basics: scheming politicians, scheming businessmen, righteous scientists, evil scientists, a crusading reporter, love interests and life and death decisions. But with these ingredients, the result is less than the sum of its parts.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amy Gold on March 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is not that book, not by a long shot. Unless you're saying "Wow. How did this piece of crap get published?"

Now I love a good bio-medical political thriller as much as the next guy. But there were too many plot holes and inconsistencies for a book that already required a ton of suspension of belief. The basis of this book is that a terrorist group called Genesis is terrorizing America. Yet security at the Capitol for the State of the Union is lax enough to get a bunch of explosive containers of biological hazards in? And to allow someone to set up a complicated system of surveillance cameras inside the Capitol a week before? No and No. And the President and the entire Congress are sequestered in the Capitol for a week and there's apparently little national news coverage on the topic? And the President decides to only get ONE virologist (and one who just spent 8 months in prison as a suspected terrorist) to try to solve this crisis? And a virologist who doesn't believe on animal testing to boot?

And then there's the little holes. Like when Griff talks about not having internet access to help solve the virus puzzle but then a few pages later googles "what's the longest a human ever stayed awake?" And then there are the numerous FAXES Griff and the President exchange. Hello? 1993 called and they want their technology back.

Now on the bright side, you are virtually guaranteed to be surprised at the ending. I tried to save myself some misery and skip to the end after reading 150 pages, and I didn't recognize *a single name* in the penultimate chapter. (Yes, I went back and finished it. No I shouldn't have bothered)

I'm pretty sure this book is actually PETA propaganda camouflaged as a novel, but I'm unwilling to read anymore Michael Palmer to find out.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Patti on February 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tickets to the State of the Union Address are as hard to come by as Super Bowl tickets, but in Day 1 of this Michael Palmer thriller, it's not the place to be. A domestic terrorist organization that calls itself Genesis manages to unleash smoke bombs laced with a lethal virus into the House Chambers in the middle of the President's speech. The President, who commissioned the creation of the virus as a bioweapon, is the only person in the room who knows how deadly it is and commences to seal the building, quarantining all of the attendees. In the meantime, Griffin Rhodes, a scientist framed for stealing the virus, is suffering prison-guard abuse while in solitary confinement. The President springs him so that Griff can get back to work on a cure for the virus, but there's still animosity and distrust between the two. Enter Angela Fletcher, Washington Post reporter and Griff's ex-lover, to make sure that Griff doesn't step out of line. Palmer actually subjugates the medical aspect of the story to the political, in which the power-hungry Speaker of the House and foe of the President, Ursula Ellis, colludes with Genesis in exchange for a promised cure and elevation to the Presidency. Palmer is just subtle enough with his tasty red herring, and I don't mean Ursula, that I took the bait. Even if you're savvy enough to see the clue for what it is, there's still plenty of suspense here for the vicarious adrenaline junkie but not so much realism that it's going to keep you awake at night. After all, what terrorists are going to want to wear biocontainment suits, unless, of course, they're suicidal? Even if they are, they might be deterred by the fact that the virus doesn't result in a sudden painless death but rather unimaginable suffering equal to that brought on by Ebola. I found the political infighting and corruption much more frightening, especially given today's polarized electorate.
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