Wednesday, January 28, 2009

review of Beat The Reaper

Beat The Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell

Doctor Peter Brown is not quite like any doctor you might have ever met...but then Peter...or should we call him Pietro “Bearclaw” Brwna (and no, that is no a typo) is most likely not like anyone you have ever met. He is a man with a past, hence the other name, and quite a past it is. When his grandparents, with whom he lived, are murdered when he was 14, he takes the opportunity, when it presents itself, to get very friendly with some mob folks in an attempt to find who killed them and take his revenge. Let's say he really took to some of those mob ways but now is in the witness protection program and is a doctor at a Manhattan hospital. All is going as well as can be expected, and that is not too good, until someone who know Peter from his past shows up as a patient and recognizes him. Then things really get exciting!

To give you a taste for the tone of the book, a small excerpt. The book opens with someone attempting to mug him, which is really a mistake, because Doctor Peter can surely take care of himself.
“Take it easy, Doc.” he says.
Which explains that, at least. Even at five in the morning, I'm not the kind of guy you mug. I look like an Easter Island sculpture of a longshoreman. But the fuckhead can see the blue scrub pants under my overcoat and the ventilated green plastic clogs, so he thinks I've got drugs and money on me. And maybe that I've taken some kind of oath not to kick his fuckhead ass for trying to mug me.
I barely have enough drugs and money to get me through the day...."

Let's say the mugger was lucky to get out of that encounter still alive, because Pietro has left a lot of not so alive folks in his trail.

Gosh, you want your doctor to have enough drugs to get through the day, right? Yes, Doctor Peter is quite a character and this is quite a book. Part medical mystery...with some really interesting footnotes...part thriller, with appearances by the Mob, Nazis, crazy, scary doctors, part love story, part comedy, it is often very foul and often very funny. It is gross and hilarious, scary and vulgar, sexually explicit and violent...and did I mention, very, very funny.

And contains, near the end, one of the most horrible, unbelievable, 'can't avert your eyes from it' scene that I have ever read. Ever. Bar none.
If you are looking for a fast paced, funny, entertaining book and don't mind being scared to ever step foot in a hospital again, and are not too terribly sensitive to sex, violence and terrible language, this is your book.

By the way, somewhere out there on the WorldWideWeb, I read that the author, the actual doctor Josh Bazell, after selling the book for SEVEN FIGURES, has, this very month, sold the movie rights of Beat The Reaper to a group headed by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is expected to star as Peter/Pietro when the film is made. Hmmm...not sure he will be able to really capture that Easter Island longshoreman thing, but it will be fun to see!

If you are interested in glancing at some other reviews, here are a few you might enjoy.
Shhh I'm Reading...
At Home With Books
Booking Mama

Available from Amazon


  1. I'm so excited for this one! I just won an audio-book giveaway of it, but I think I'll have to buy it so I can find those favorite passages and keep it for a while.

  2. Caite - I passed on this one back when it was offered as an ARC and now I'm just kicking myself!!! Argh. Figures I miss a good one. I'll be tracking it down and definitely reading this one, though!

  3. I loaned my copy out, but if you don't happen upon it and you don't mind waiting a bit, I will happily send you my copy. I like it a lot..but not a book I would reread.

  4. Whew! Sounds like quite a read! :-) Great review!

  5. I was anxious to see what you thought of this one. I loved it too. I literally read that last scene through my fingers. The author's father is the medical correspondent for NBC.

  6. Really, I didn't know that.

    And yes...that last scene was...something.


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