Delayed Diagnosis

Prescribed Danger by Gwen Hunter
(Mira, $6.50 V) ISBN 1-55166-916-1
Prescribed Danger is Gwen Hunterís fifth suspense novel, and the second featuring Dr. Rhea Lynch. Rhea is an emergency room doctor in a small town in South Carolina, and the story opens on the night shift as an interracial couple is admitted to the ER in a blinding rainstorm.

They claim to have been escaped victims of a torture/kidnapping by white supremacists. Seeing the firsthand results of their torture, Rhea believes them. The woman is pregnant and loses her unborn child as a result of the beatings. She has also been tattooed with a blue six-sided star. Rhea stabilizes her, only to lose her and her husband to a vicious pneumonia within hours.

That same night another women dies with the same abnormalities showing in her chest X-ray. Later, a man named Ellis stages a jailbreak from the local holding center. The other prisoners involved in the jailbreak appear to be related to a local white supremacist group. The authorities are aware of a collection of splinter terrorist groups in the area and are in the process of investigating them. Some are more violent than others, and some have more of a religious bent.

The situation reaches crisis proportions when Rhea and the hospital contact the CDC in Atlanta in search of the identify of the bacterium thought to have caused these very rapid deaths. The bacterium is found to be man made and the conclusion is obvious. The challenge comes as the authorities try and locate the perpetrators.

Hunter draws on characters introduced in her prior Rhea Lynch story but this story does stand alone well. She continues to develop Rheaís character, personality quirks, foibles and strengths. The plot is complex and the action is fast paced. The authorís note indicates this was written prior to 9/11, but some bit of rewriting made it even more topical. This will make it no doubt one of the first of many stories to address bio-terrorism.

The down side to the book is that it is heavily focused on emergency room activity, and a reader with scant medical knowledge will be frustrated or bored by the highly technical terms. Unfortunately when the author stops to explain some of them, she has to use other medical terms to make her point, so it could be heavy going for the medically challenged.

--Thea Davis

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