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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2001
I plucked this book off a library shelf in 1996 only because the author's last name caught my attention as being similar to my own. I took it and 6 other novels home and sat down to take a quick preliminary glance at all of them, happening to start with CC. Three hours later, I was still in the same place, alternately howling with laughter and shouting out "Richard Dooling is a GENIUS!" This novel has everything--everything I like, at least: black humor, mordant sociology, unusual but believable and mostly even likeable characters, a plot that keeps you turning pages as fast as you can while at the same time wishing the book would not end, mystery, surprises, an inside look at an arcane profession, and finally, wisdom that doesn't seem hokey. I went back to the library in search of information about the author and--this was 1996, remember--found only a couple of reviews, in library journals, and the reviewers had not understood the book AT ALL. Its fortunes improved somewhat after his second novel was published. The movie was also superlative but went largely unnoticed. I recommended both novel and movie to many friends, and several told me one or the other was just too "strong" for their taste. Maybe it just hits too close to home. I have found most of the same qualities in Dooling's subsequent novels, which because of their subjects--Africa, cyberspace--may be far enough removed from what really hurts us here in the U.S. to be more popular.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 1998
I read Critical Care as soon as I finished Dooling's latest novel, Brain Storm. I was impressed that Dooling possessed such a huge mastery of the world inside the Intensive Care Unit AND of the law. This book presents similar types of ethical questions that Brain Storm does, but all of it is couched in hilarious dialogue and personal character reflections. Make sure to read this book in a place where laughing outloud won't get you thrown out. Great Book (I just started his other novel, White Man's Grave).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 17, 2005
Before taking on Richard Dooling's "White Man's Grave" (a National Book Award finalist), I decided to try out a shorter work of his, namely this 1992 debut work. Frankly, there's not much of a story here. I think even each of the five-star reviewers on these pages would attest to that.

What there is, however, is wonderful insight on the medical profession, especially regarding the dynamics and motivations of ICU care. For anyone in medicine, or even for someone who has a good friend or relative in the profession, "Critical Care" is a must-read. For those who live the life depicted in Dooling's book, there will surely be laughs, head-shaking assents and the occassional exclamatory "Yes!"

Where this book also excels is in its depictions of where the medical and legal professions intersect. In fact, the hospital's in-house counsel has some wonderful things to say to the book's protagonist, Peter Werner Ernst, about 'the truth':

"You must understand that in any litigation conducted by competent attorneys the truth will come out; it's only a matter of when. you must also understand that it is far better for both you and the Medical Center if the truth comes out sooner rather than later."

"Cross-examination can be a very unpleasant experience, even for a witness who is telling the truth. Successfully telling lies is almost impossible. Lies change. The truth does not change. If the honest witness gets confused during questioning, he or she need only remember the truth and cling to it and give the same, consistent answers to every question, even questions for which the witness is unprepared. If the witness is not telling the truth, his or her story will change. A good lawyer will easiliy detect that change and will let the witness go on changing the story. Then the lawyer will confront the witness with each change and ask him to explain it. In his panic, the witness can't cling to the truth because he is lying under oath, which is a crime. More changes inevitably appear. Then, as you can imagine, things get worse...It can be a humiliating experience."

Not only is that superlative writing, it's also about the most spot-on writing on that subject I've ever encountered. I was recently a witness to a cross-examiniation in which that exact sequence of events unfolded. A witness got tripped up in a key lie - he told it once in the morning depostion, then messed it up when trying to re-tell that afternoon. When the lawyer pounced on those differences, it wasn't a pretty sight. The truth would have been a far more effective strategy. Kudos to Mr. Dooling for brilliantly encapsulating that important 'life lesson.'
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 1998
"Critical Care" has Dooling's first and perhaps best novel. It contains his usual blend of medical and legal background themes leavened with his acerbic humor.
Unlike his previous novel ("Brain Storm") this is story is based more on the medical theme and less the legal. The story is about the ethical choices a doctor working in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) has to make. Doolings style is good, and his ironic descriptions are precious. Yet the book is serious, I'm thinking seriously about a living will after having read this.
One failing I am beginning to find, is that the author only has one character. The doctor in this story is too similar to the lawyer in "Brain Storm" and the Indiana insurance adjuster in "White Man's Grave".
Recommended for those who would like to read about an ironic Dr. Kildare.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2005
Writing Excellent

Plot Excellent

Pace Moderate

I love this author's work -cynical, black humor, my personal favorite. He writes exceptionally well. His writing could make an insurance brochure interesting. The plot itself often takes a back seat to his cynical description of the medical field. As a professional in the health care field, a lot of this stuff is sad but true. The plot moves along well even though it's frustrating watching the protagonist sink into a quagmire brought on by his bad decisions. This book is an excellent read. That being said, dark humor is definitely an acquired taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 21, 2005
Don't get sick. That's all I can think after reading this book.

My wife used to work as a hospice nurse. She's out of it now, totally burned out. Most of her patients were just fine to work with, she says, it's the family that drove her nuts.

Families don't come off well here: they either keep people alive waaaaaay to long, or want them immediately dead in order to get their inheritence.

Mind you, doctors don't come off so well either. The main protagonist is a doctor for want of something to do with his life. His immediate supervisor - another doctor - is clueless but has great style. The main admitting doctor is a chronic alcoholic.

The patients? Well, they're suffering from fat, cigarettes, booze, or old age.

Only one nurse comes off at all well.

This is one damned cynical book. Like I said: don't get sick.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 1999
R.D must have been a doctor in a former life because his eye for medical detail is astonishing(second only to his scathing wit).READ IT!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2009
I work in the medical field, and I can tell you that this book is based on truth. I have read all of Mr. Dooling's books, after discovering this one first. I've bought this book for at least five people as gifts.

Reading this book, I SO wanted to crawl into the plot as one of the ICU nurses, preferably another Stella. Then the ending sneaks up on you, and it isn't at all what I expected, but in a good way. I re-read this book at least once every year. Thank you, Mr. Dooling, for the entertainment and for surprising me and making me think at the end. I'm sure I'm not the only reader who would like to hear more from Werner.
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on August 21, 2015
The author's way with words, expressing truth in literate hilarious sarcasm, would make the book worth reading even if the plot and content weren't remarkable --which they definitely are. Absolutely loved it. Best of the Dooling books I've read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2015
This book is derogatory regarding nurses. I found it offensive.
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