Isolation Ward

Book Review: Isolation Ward

Isolation Ward, a debut novel by Joshua Spanogle, is a good effort. Published by Delacorte Press earlier this year (2006) it strikes me as a book that was green lighted at a high level with less editorial oversight than usual. As a result the first few chapters seem unpolished and the ending is a little strung out but the writing after the first few short chapters is quite good. I definitely recommend it.

Spanogle is a medical student at Stanford and his experience in the field shows. The writing about science and medicine in the book are first rate and that's quite important because the plot revolves around Dr Nathan McCormick and his investigation into the possible outbreak of a new infectious disease, possibly a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola.

This disease presents like flu at first but quickly escalates into a lethal hemorrhagic-like disease. Dr McCormick, a junior doctor with the CDC who's stationed in Baltimore, is called in to consult when a second patient exhibits this disease and a third woman comes in with the flu-like precursor symptoms. As the investigation moves forward they find out all the patients are women from group homes for the mentally impaired.

Isolation Ward is a medical thriller that uses a series of dead patients and witnesses to develop dynamic tension as well as clues to what's going on with this disease. On the journey we meet McCormick's very colorful past in the form of burnt bridges in academia, science, and romance. It's quickly obvious that McCormick has a personality that can rub anyone the wrong way--but that brashness is how he makes progress, in fits and starts, tracking down the disease. Starting in Baltimore and moving to the lush financial environs of Silicon Valley, the intrepid McCormick pisses off people everywhere he goes but in the end he does find the original vector behind the disease as well as the people who have tried to stymie his investigation.

You don't need a biology or medical background to read this but it doesn't hurt. Spanogle does a good job of explaining things as his fictional Dr McCormick moves through areas of medicine, molecular biology research and biotech finance. But it's a lot of information to absorb! Of course you can just sit back and indulge in the action and ignore the details. There's plenty of dead bodies in this book with any number of doublecrosses, deadends and new clues to keep the plot moving. And a few loose ends to be sure but they're not very intrusive.

If you like medical thrillers, this one is better than the typical Robin Cook novel. There's supposed to be a sequel coming out in 2007 named Growth Factor also using the Nathan McCormick character. It should be well worth reading, this first novel certainly is.


Belizegial said…
Sounds like a really good read. If I can locate a copy of this book here in the tropics, I will definitely buy one.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and best wishes for a wonderful 2007!
Jean-Luc Picard said…
It looks a promising novel.

Michele sent me
Jean-Luc Picard said…
Deja vu time! I visited earlier from Michele.
Bob-kat said…
Hi, Sounds like an interesting book. I will keep it in mind once I have finished the Winter King books by Bernard Cornwall.

Thanks for visiting my blog and glad you liked the pic of the tree snake. i loved it too and have always had a soft spot for reptiles!

Thanks for the pointer to Rashbre. I have been following his NYC trip with interest.

Now I must go and wish very hard and hope Santa thinks I've been good enough for that SLR...

BTW - I would like to BlogRoll you if that is OK?

Merry Christmas!
Claire said…
I like the sound of this, it's on my list!
Yaeli said…
I will add that one to my to read list and will find it one day to make the journey with me to Vanuatu.
Michelle said…
Hmmmm, i may give that one a miss, me being the hypocondriac that i am!
Carmi said…
I've always liked Robin Cook's writing style. It flows wonderfully.

I'm looking for vacation reading material: could this be it?
Yaeli said…
Michele sent me this time... I like hearing about new books that people enjoy. When I'm in Van I read several books a week so it's nice to have some new material to take along with me.
toygirl said…
Look like an interesting book that would make me fear for my life. Here from Michele.
Bob-kat said…
Hi, thanks for visiting my blog :-)

To answer your question I have my eye on a Canon EOS. I've read a bit about it and it seems to be a good one to start with, and most importantly more affordable than others (depending on which one in teh range but probably the 300D).
srp said…
As long as there are no medicine residents crawling around air conditioning ducts and finding patients in comas hanging from futuristic tethers, it might be OK. I don't know what disturbed me most about Robin Cook's "Coma"; the fact that the female physician (heroine, yeah) couldn't get anyone to believe her, the fact that the premise was so vile in the first place or that the movie made it seem even more sinister than the book.

This sounds a lot like the super-flu bug in Stephen King's novel "The Stand".

Wonder when this will hit the libraries?
Uisce said…
I like the term "debut novel" since my first novel sure as heck won't be debuting anywhere! :)

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