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Beat the Reaper: A Novel (Package May Vary) Paperback – Unabridged, September 14, 2009
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Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room.
Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ...
Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.
Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, BEAT THE REAPER is a debut thriller so utterly original you won't be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won't be able to put it down.
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It has the anti-hero theme so common these days and you'll have a tough time deciding whether to love or hate this character, but either way you'll be interested in him. It has some unrealistic scenes for sure but it doesn't distract from the overall story much. You'll learn a few things here and there as well, delivered in a very unique fashion.
Overall I have a hard time finding an author to compare this work to, which I suppose is a compliment in itself. If you like dark gritty humor and have a strong stomach give it a shot.
"Beat the Reaper" is a fast-paced, decently written, character driven, darkly humorous thriller. The worst thing I can say about it is that it will undoubtedly be made into a very average film, and that will be a disservice. However, in spite of the cinematic elements of the text, this novel does not read like a script treatment, but is rather a full fledged story, with a very interesting and nicely developed main character. The major strength of this text in fact is the first person voice of the book's protagonist, Dr. Peter Brown. The whole novel is told from his first person point of view and goes from the present to the past with ease, and Josh Bazell does a nice job of creating gaps for the reader that pique their interest and then slowly are filled in as more of Dr. Brown's story is revealed.
As the main character is a doctor, and a former hit man, he has extensive arcane knowledge; which is shared with the reader via footnotes that appear throughout the text. I liked this stylistic device, as it works for the protagonists' medical profession, and because often times the footnotes were clever and interesting. Other readers have complained that there are many unrealistic elements to the story, and there indeed are. But the strength of Bazell's writing is that these ridiculous elements seem to work in the world he has created for "Beat the Reaper".
This novel is the first in a planned trilogy, and I intend to continue the journey.
Approach "Beat the Reaper" for what it is, and you will have a good time.
Dr. Peter Brown is a young intern in one of Manhattan's seedier neighborhood hospitals. But he is also Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa, a self-described "Easter Island sculpture of a longshoreman," a former hit man for the mob currently in the Federal Witness Protection Program. When Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddie Squillante, shows up in Peter's ward dying of stomach cancer, Brown knows he's been outed and that his days of playing Young Dr. Killdare are terminally numbered. So what could have been a predictable and oft-told tale of out running the mob becomes, in credit to Bazell's brilliance, a riveting romp of nearly nonstop violence and corrosive humor spanning a couple of decades and as many continents, a yarn that on the surface may feel like just another entry in the crowded shelves of pulp fiction - until the reader defibrillated into an unexpected depths of passion, insight, and scapel-edged, uninhibited cynicism that leaves no cows sacred and few conventional wisdoms unchallenged.
Josh Bazell is Charlie Huston with quotation marks. Duane Swierczynski with footnotes. Lee Child with soul. A writer with attitude and irreverence and "puddles of blood and teeth" who takes an outrageous and seemingly absurd assortment topics that run the gamut from anatomy to shark attacks to Auschwitz - and makes it all work. Bazell carves deftly between Pietro Brnwa the mobster to Peter Brown the doctor, each plot line separated by time and competing with the other in pulse, adrenaline and, surprisingly, intellect, while rushing to the most disgustingly bizarre - but satisfying - climax I can remember. That rare novel in which the ending actually does credit to, and exceeds the expectations of, the pages that lead to it.
So thanks a lot, Josh, but hey - I'll look forward to wasting another day with your next stroke of genius.
Most recent customer reviews
The wife and I tried listening to this book on a road trip. Couldn't resist the description, as she's an ER physician.Read more
Will be returning empty box