When 17-year-old Kristen Kroiter, a former patient, kills herself after penning a diary entry describing a sexual encounter with him, hotshot emergency-room surgeon Ted Cogan faces an uphill battle to clear his name. Kristen had indeed spent the night at his home when she washed up there drunk after a frat party. Cogan had been drinking a little too, and Kristen's best friend swears she saw them in bed together. Anyone who knows him can imagine the 40-something Cogan, a notorious womanizer with an eye for college girls, in the scenario. For detective Hank Madden of the Menlo Park, Calif., police department, that--along with a personal animus stemming from his traumatic past--is enough to charge Cogan with statutory rape and manslaughter. It's also enough to draw readers into this subtle and engrossing mystery.
As Cogan struggles to reconstruct that night's events, first-time novelist Carnoy paints a landscape of complex, flawed characters, mixed motives and twisting intrigue. He takes readers into the toxic office politics of a hospital surgery department, the rancid machinations of a frat house full of horny kids on the make and the romantic fantasies of young girls, fueled by a volatile mixture of innocence and desire.
Tautly paced and full of crisp dialogue, Carnoy's prose is pitch-perfect whether delving into medical and police procedural or sussing out the nuances of campus hookup culture. In Cogan, he's concocted an appealing, edgy protagonist--cocksure, arrogant and abrasive towards his less competent colleagues and "difficult" patients, but possessed of a roguish charm that makes readers want to tag along, even if they're not sure where his moral compass is pointing.
A gripping thriller debut that is just what the doctor ordered. --Kirkus Discoveries, December 11, 2008