Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Highly Recommended Reading: "Beat the Reaper" by Josh Bazell

What is Beat the Reaper like? Take a look at its cover art. The folks who put that together for Josh Bazell's novel perfectly captured this book's tart and frenzied essence.

Author Josh Bazell, according to this wild book jacket, holds an MD and is currently working as a resident at the University of California, San Francisco. In Beat the Reaper, Bazell draws on his medical knowledge to create protagonist Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at a chaotic hospital in Manhattan.

Dr. Brown, it turns out, packed-in quite a bit of living before turning to a career in medicine. Brown was Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa, a hit man for the Mafia. The book is about how Brown/Brnwa got drawn into life as a hit man, and what happens when his life in the Mafia and at the hospital intersect.

Bazell wonderfully twists the mob and medical genres together. Beat the Reaper is an original, fast-paced, and funny book that frequently offers story elements which are gross, crude, or juvenile. At the same time, it offers material that is oddly informative, and smart observations about people and institutions. Somehow, this all works.

Beat the Reaper is to reading what biting into a fresh, tart apple is to eating: it's not going to make up your entire diet, but it's good even while being a bit of a shock -- and you'd like some more, please.