Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tainted: Ross Pennie

Summary from the publisher's site:
In an affluent city perched on Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment, residents begin turning up on the pathologist’s autopsy table with what looks like epidemic mad cow disease. Zol Szabo, a public-health doctor and former chef, and Hamish Wakefield, a young infectious-diseases specialist, must trace the epidemic to its source while dodging the deadly prions that appear to have contaminated almost everything in the supermarket. Things spin out of control and more lives are threatened when a government-appointed investigator pulls rank, hijacks the investigation, and allows his inflated ego to supersede common sense.
Incidents of contamination of the food supply are featured almost weekly in the news. In Tainted, the clock is ticking to discover the source of the disease before it can spread, while navigating the political minefield of the hospital and the media.
This book is described as "A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery" and that is exactly what it is. If the reader is looking for a murder in the first few pages of the book, or a fast moving action tale, this is not the book for them. This book moves at a slower pace and focuses more on scientific investigation than crime investigation. It is surprising how some parts of the medical investigation parallels techniques used in police investigations. The need for proof, or at least a high percentage of positive results, is one example. Also the attention that is paid to how the information is presented to the public, so as not to cause unwarranted reactions from concerned citizens.


My husband discovered this book at our local bookstore. This is his review at Goodreads:
An expert medical mystery/thriller that is less whodunit (although there are elements of that) and more whatdunit. I like the well-drawn characters (especially Dr. Zol Szabo, a basically decent and struggling single father) and appreciate how clearly the very complicated science is presented.
This was the 11th book I read for the 8th annual Canadian Book Challenge, which ends June 30th, 2015. When reading books for this challenge, I am often reading as much for exposure to the setting and culture of Canada as for the story or the thrill of the read. In this case I also learned about how disease outbreaks are discovered and investigated.

Other characters in the story are a private detective, Colleen Woolton, and Natasha Sharma, a health-unit epidemologist working in the public-health office. Sol brings in the private detective to speed up the investigations. This isn't strictly kosher in a medical investigation but he is under pressure to find an answer fast. Pennie shares a lot about the background of all of his characters. The ones that you get to know the best are Sol and Hamish. As my husband points out, a strong element of the story is Sol’s relationship with his seven-year-old son.

We see enough of the investigation into a possible disease outbreak to get squeamish about the food we eat... or at least that was my reaction.  And also to be appalled at the politics involved and the slow pace at which such investigations move. I don't mean to imply that there is no crime involved, but it is more of a sideline than the focus of the book.

This novel had a little more melodrama than I usually like and more romance too, but those fit pretty well in the context of the investigation. There is more action towards the end as the investigators risk their safety to check out a questionable business that markets sausage. The style of writing was competent but what drew me  in  was the setting and learning about the medical science behind finding the source of infectious disease outbreaks.

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Publisher:   ECW Press, 2011 (orig. pub. 2009)
Length:       305 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:        Dr. Sol Szabo, #1
Setting:       Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Genre:        Medical Mystery
Source:       Borrowed from my husband.

14 comments:

  1. TracyK: I am going to have to read this book. I have been involved in blood litigation over infections of AIDS and Hepatitis C through the Canadian blood system for the last 24 years.

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    1. Bill, I would love to hear your opinion on this book. I will be reading the next one in the series sometime, my husband bought that one too.

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  2. Probably a bit away from my comfort zone this one. I'll pass. Glad you enjoyed it, mostly..

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    1. You are probably right, Col. It does make you worry about everything you eat.

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  3. Tracy, not sure I want to read it, even though it sounds very good. I might never want to eat again! I like the setting and the cover is really nice.

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    1. I like the cover too, Peggy. Very atmospheric.

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  4. Interesting. I see my library has it, so I've put it on hold and will give it a go.

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    1. The topics are interesting and the characters are likable without being perfect. I do hope you like it, Kay.

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  5. This sounds like a really interesting book, Tracy. And it goes to show that fast pace and action aren't necessarily required for a book to be worth reading.

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    1. It is funny, Margot, the blurb from Tess Gerritsen on the cover says it is fast-paced, but I did not find it that way. It did hold my interest throughout.

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  6. Tracy, I see shades of medical thriller writer Robin Cook in this book. I'll keep the author in mind.

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    1. Prashant, I don't think I have ever read a Robin Cook thriller. Maybe I will have to give one a try.

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  7. Obviously an interesting find for you, and fits with your challenge, but I think I worry enough about life without reading a book about food/medical problems... But a good review anyway...

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    1. I did find it interesting, Moira, although I never would have sought it out without the added benefits of the Canadian background. It bothered me less than I expected.

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