ou know those quaint little curb libraries where you can trade books? Usually I find them packed with children’s coloring books and gothic romances. But while shopping the three in my neighborhood, I found a five-year-old hardback, a medical thriller titled The Hollow Men.
So Doctor Harry Kent is a bit of a rudderless soul, a fellow who, besides his hospital rounds, puts in time as a police surgeon for the London Metropolitan Police. And one night he’s called in; a young teen has gone into a chicken fast food place with a starter gun and a list of demands: he wants a lawyer and time with the press. As a kid plagued with gang-life, he doesn’t want a cop negotiator. He wants someone non-cop. A police surgeon would be just the ticket.
Thus Harry finds himself on the tile floor of the establishment, trying to coax the kid to give up, finding out more and more strange things about him. The kid mentions a woman’s name, how they got to her. He is coughing up his lungs. Clearly he is on his last legs. And all this isn’t helped when the cops overreact and shoot him.
This pulls Kent into a deep, deep crime. Who is this kid? Why does someone want him dead (his penicillin allergy information is removed from hospital records and he nearly dies again)? And the more Kent proceeds with this (pissing off both the hospital and the cops) the darker things get. The book is a mystery-lover’s delight, twisting this was and that, letting you play along and try to solve the case in best sleuth-fashion. Overall, I really enjoyed it and will likely post it to my just-retired doctor-sister so that maybe she’ll do that Angela Lansbury thing and solve mysteries in her free time.
If I had one thing to ding the novel about, it does have a bit of the English style of delayed climax. We solved the case and yet it went on for another seventy pages (that we good, but I was ready to disembark). A lot of English books do this – they flatted the climax into a long slow process (unlike American tastes, which have climaxes with guns and high places and fist fights). But that’s a matter of national taste, I suppose, and hardly a reason not to read this fine novel.
Anyway, really liked it. You might too. And Sis, watch your post!
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