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VINE VOICEon January 6, 2012
Pia Grazdani, a talented medical student, is working with a prestigious scientist, Dr. Rothman, on stem cell research to create human replacement organs. The research, which will revolutionize treatment of many diseases, is only months away from being completed when a disaster strikes the lab. Dr. Rothman and one of his associates become deathly ill while working in the lab and die within hours. Pia does not believe this is an accident and, with the help of her friend George, begins her own investigation much to the distress of school administrators. A potential murder investigation would not be good for the school.

I liked Pia. She is smart, strong-willed and independent. Orphaned at an early age she was raised in the foster system and learned to depend on herself and no one else. She still suffers from nightmares and cannot allow anyone to get close to her even though her friend George would do anything to help her.

Meanwhile, several ex-Wall street hot-shots think they have hit on the investment idea of the century. They formed a company to buy insurance policies from terminally ill people for pennies on the dollar. The future seems bright until someone begins shorting their stock. As soon as other investors find out about this, their company will be worthless.

Scattered throughout the story are a few chapters with some very unlikeable characters from the Albanian mob. It got a little unbelievable and this element of the plot could have been handled differently and still been effective. To avoid spoilers I'll not say much more other than all three seemingly unconnected storylines come together in the end.

The narration by George Guidall was a pleasure to listen to with a smooth, flowing style. I usually prefer a female main character to be narrated by a woman's voice but Guidall did a capable job with Pia and I was not distracted by the lack of a female reader. The book was written in the third person so there was more narration than dialog.

I enjoyed this medical thriller that combines the right amount of current research, factual information and an engaging story. Stem cell research and organ replacement are timely and interesting topics that held my attention over the eleven hours of the audiobook.
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on February 5, 2012
This book has to be one of the most disjointed books Cook has written. I could not determine whether the story was about business, greedy business people, insurance, greed, nuns, Wall Street, medicine, research, Albanian Mafia, viruses, stem cells, deadbeat dads, perverted uncles, organ generation, etc. The people at the OCME, who I like the most, were pretty much ignored. The worst part of the book is the ending. It has more lose ends/incomplete story lines than a porcupine has quills. I would say that anyone who rates this book higher than 3 stars has very low expectations.
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on December 27, 2011
Nobel Prize winner, molecular geneticist Tobias Rothman, who worked with virulent strains of typhoid-causing salmonella, concentrates on organogenesis, growing fully functional entire organs from stem cells. He notices the energy and intelligence of Columbia Medical School student Pia Grazdani so Tobias brings the troubled twenty-six years old onto his team.

Avaricious board chair of LifeDeals Inc. Edmund Mathews uses his firm's assets to buy life insurance policies from the sick and elderly on the cheap. However, if Rothman's work succeeds making organs cheap, Mathews and his partners would go bankrupt and potentially face criminal charges of fraud and embezzlement. An accident at the safe lab shakes up Pia who soon realizes someone caused the lethal incident and wants her dead too. She turns to Columbia medical student George Wilson, who loves her, for safety.

Although an exciting medical thriller, Death Benefits is over the top of Morningside Heights; thus requiring readers to ignore their plausibility measures. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the lab incident occurs and never slows down. Robin Cook shines a fascinating spotlight on the multitrillion dollar insurance commodity market inside an engaging Manhattan tale.

Harriet Klausner
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on September 2, 2012
I was very disappointed in this book. I am surprised it is even a Robin Cook book........ nothing like any of his other works. I usually enjoy the medical thrillers he writes.......because they are believable, written so someone who is NOT in the medical field can understand them, and have great plots to them. Death Benefit doesn't fall into ANY of those categories. The main character is so distracting, and the second character has a high school crush on her, and ugh! On and on the story goes of him chasing her, and her rebuffing him, ad nauseum. I wouldn't recommend this book to Mr Cook's fans....... they will be disappointed.
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on December 27, 2011
I have read all of Robin Cooks books to date and havent been disappointed in any of them.
This latest book follows suite.
BUT .. The fact that the kindle edition of this release is $3 more than the paperback version has me confused.
Why pay more for for an e book that obviously costs less to manufacture than its printed version.

I dont know if this is the fault of the author, the publisher or amazon but it has me wondering if my next purchase will be kindle based..
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on February 19, 2012
So sorry to see Robin Cook declining. He used to be the Best!! This is not worth your time - characters not developed, not even likable. Don't waste your time!
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on January 23, 2012
if he keeps publishing throw away junk like this I'm writing him off.

I don't like Pia, really, she made it this far through college and medical school without ending up in a psych ward? If they don't do psychiatric evaluations of med students and prospective med students, they should. As was mentioned in a previous review - George comes off as a big wimp. They introduce Grandma only to drop her completely, they bring in the nuns to be forgotten and written off also, the ME's characters make a guest appearance for no reason other than to say hi.

The whole thing is just one big mess! The conclusion just made me roll my eyes.

The biggest problem with completely unlikeable characters is the reaction to the possibility of how quickly they have approval for he implantation of test tube organs. Really? Plus the reaction of the Wall Street baddies to the news? Their little rip off company is going to fail because of something that will not likely to go mainstream for a couple of generations? They should be more concerned about Congress passing legislation putting an end to their scam.

I gave it 2 stars, perhaps it should have been 1 or 1 1/2 for the whining.
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VINE VOICEon December 29, 2011
A youth full of abuse suffered while under the "care" of the New York child welfare system has left Pia Grandazi with deep emotional scars. She has a hard time feeling anything for anybody. But her intense intelligence, dedication, and willingness to work incredibly hard have led her to Columbia Medical School. She is within a few months of graduation when she finds herself entangled in a bizarre plot involving her mentor, Dr. Tobias Rothman, a Nobel laureate.

Rothman is on the cutting edge of research on the use of stem cells that will produce an entire new organ. The recipient of the organ provides the stem cells, so there is no danger of rejection. Rothman's work is apparently only months away from the relatively easy production of organs such as kidneys and pancreases. It would seem that the whole world would rejoice at this epochal medical breakthrough. However, there are those who stand to lose many millions if this research is successful, because they want people to die. They want people to die because.... Well, I won't tell you. It's one of the most fascinating aspects of the tale. These soulless monsters who stand to lose a fortune because of Rothman's work are willing to use methods most foul to thwart him.

I found this to be a thrilling read. As usual with the works of Robin Cook, the prose is flawless. The only bump is Cook's over-the-top treatment of Pia's family ties. Turns out she has close relatives in the Albanian mob who are as committed to a code of "honor" as Pia is to medical research.

This is the third Cook novel that I have reviewed for this site. It's the best of the three, and the others were quite good.
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on February 1, 2012
I agree with the less than favorable reviews on this book. I've enjoyed the Jack/Laurie books and always like Cook's hot-off-the-presses medical thriller issues. But this one was just totally muddled. The characters were one-dimensional and not very believable, there were too many plot lines left un-finished, and the Armenian mafia/long lost daughter stuff was just ridiculous, convoluted, and off the track. Not one of his best, and not even exciting.
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on December 8, 2012
The ending of this book was so poorly executed that I thought my Kindle was broken and hadn't downloaded the entire book. It just ends suddenly with multiple story lines unresolved. It seems that Cook was on a deadline and just stopped writing suddenly. Terrible.
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