Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
Last post I mentioned I was reading Josh Bazell's debut, Beat the Reaper, and that I'd try to write something about the novel when I finished it. By writing that sentence, you should infer that I'm finished.
Beat the Reaper is a quick 300-page read, which Bazell deserves credit for. He keeps the story moving with short scenes and strong dialogue, and does a solid job of recreating the atmosphere one would expect to find in a hospital. Before I started reading the novel, I read an Amazon review that compared Beat the Reaper to a mix between House and The Sopranos. I haven't watched enough episodes of House (though I should watch more) to know if that's a fair comparison, but I will say Beat the Reaper is much like a hospital drama with a fair amount of crime and action. It's nothing like The Sopranos, as that show had a greater depth and attempted to say something more about crime. I didn't find Bazell's novel to share that same pursuit. It's mostly entertainment, well-written and enjoyable.
Should someone pick up a copy of Beat the Reaper? It depends if they enjoy black humour, crime and a knowing, sometimes unlikeable, narrator. Some of the sex scenes seem implausible, and at times the action scenes are hard to follow. Overall, Bazell's debut is still worth reading if only to set up what I expect will be a much stronger sequel.