Todd’s Review of Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus

When I first received a review request for a new medical mystery/suspense thriller, Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus, my interest was immediately piqued.  I’m generally a sucker for suspense books, and the fact that this one was written by a physician and involved a medical component made it even more enticing.  So, without further ado, I began reading (on the plane over to Ohio for my cousin’s wedding, to be exact).

Do No Harm begins with an introduction to Dr. Al Chandler, a physician who has been enjoying a growing practice and general success in his personal and professional life.  He has a close relationship to the newly minted President of the United States, who thinks so highly of him that he asks him to be a part of his new administration.  Chandler, although quite humbled and taken aback, declines.  He states that his interests lie in helping others and he feels that working under the new President would take him away from his true duties.  After this, he meets Pandora Coltman, a sensual woman who attracts him instantaneously and convinces him to leave everything and travel with her to Atlantic Isle, a small island in the Bahamas where she lives.  There, Chandler begins working for the island’s hospital in the emergency room, and gets to know his new boss, Obi Falconer.  He and Pandora marry, and all seems well until Chandler begins to notice that Pandora has a history with some men on the island, including Falconer.  The mystery deepens when he discovers Pandora’s lifeless body in their backyard by the pool.  Chandler is the main suspect, and he must work to clear his name.  Can he do it in time?

I have to say, it was rather difficult to write that plot paragraph.  Normally, I have no trouble writing the plot summaries of books that I review, but this was a challenge.  Why, you may ask?  Well, Bacchus’ style of writing is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I’ll admit, perhaps he was going for a retroactive point of view, or attempting a different style, but for some reason everything seemed incredibly disjointed and in the passive voice.  Fragmented plot lines were interjected with snippets of dialogue which were out-of-place and didn’t add to the overall conversation.  For example, here is a conversation between Chandler and his friend Arnold:

“Can we subdue Falconer?”  Kennedy reared up and walked off a few steps.  “T-the night’s old.  I’m off duty.  I was forgetting.  I’m doing a ten-minute stand-up late tonight at The Comedy Club.”

“I’ll call them tomorrow about the milk.  They drink American ‘Macarthur’ only, and every morning.”

“Power to America!  Forward march, out!”

“Just a minute.”  Chandler stepped over to his parents’ bedroom to check on them and on the snake.

“Al, the good boy.  Mother’s boy!”

This is just one small example of the odd conversations that permeate the work.  It seems as if there is a lot of backstory to this particular conversation, i.e. what is behind the mentioning of milk and a snake, but they are only briefly explained beforehand, with the reader left guessing as to what Bacchus means when he inserts these dialogue points.  It’s as if we’re reading only parts of a complete story, missing the parts that connect the dots of these rapid-fire conversations that are apparently here to move the plot forward.  Additionally, there is a ton of 70’s era verbiage, with the words “daddy-o” and “pigs”, as well as “heavy” appearing repeatedly.  I doubt this story was supposed to take place in the 1970’s, as I wasn’t given any more clues to this effect, but the dialogue sure was from this time.  In all, despite these flaws, Bacchus has the skeleton of a good murder mystery.  After some serious revision of the dialogue, and descriptive paragraphs, there actually could be a workable novel underneath this current work.  On the positive side, Bacchus does highlight corruption in medicine and shines light on a problem that affects us all, whether it be directly or through increasing insurance costs due to fraud.  This is definitely a noteworthy cause to highlight.

1 out of 5 stars

Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus, MD
Abbott Press (2011)
Paperback: 228 pages
ISBN:  1458200965

Many thanks to Jessie at Author Solutions for sending me this copy for review!

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