The Organ Takers by Richard Van Anderson

The Organ Takers by Richard Van Anderson

Length: 308 pages

Recommended reader age: Adult

Publisher: White Light Press, LLC 2014

Genre: Medical Thriller

About the author:

Richard Van Anderson is a former heart surgeon turned author who’s books feature surgeons gone bad, good surgeons forced to do bad, and a a host of supporting characters including cops, spies, federal agents, high-ranking military officers and a medical students.

He trained in cardio thoracic surgery at The University of New York, held a joint appointment as Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Seattle Veterans Administration Hospital. He also has an MFA degree in creative writing from Pine Manor College, Boston

Find out more HERE

Main Characters:

David McBride: A failed surgeon, disgraced in his last year of residency, is given the chance to return to training but is forced into the illegal world of organ harvesting.

Dr Brian Steinberg: Associate Professor of psychiatry in  Bellevue Hospital

NuLife Corporation: company focused on tissue engineering and organ fabrication. Comprised of Dr Andrew Turnbull: Head of NuLife and former surgeon, Samuel Keating: Chief financial officer, and Dr Jeffery Abercrombie: Biochemist.

Kate D’Angelo: Primary Detective on the case with her partner Scarpelli. Her father was the medical Chief Examiner for New York.

Mr White: mysterious person who is the epicentre of the drive behind organ harvesting.

Plot summary, spoiler free I promise:

The novel starts with one of New York Cities homeless and mentally ill residents waking in an alley with severe pain, a line of staples around his side and a vague recollection of men in spacesuits. This and following events proves the catalyst for the involvement of David McBride and the beginning of an investigation by Kate D’Angelo.

We first meet David as he is the topic of discussion at NuLife, alongside this we learn of the situation surrounding his forced resignation and his current circumstances. Despite all the hardship and suffering in his life the love of surgery, his care for humanity and his profound sense of lose shine through. We follow him as he is offered a second chance at the State University of New York, and almost instantly is forced into the dark world of organ harvesting for money, his morals and ethics are pushed to the limit each time he is forced to violate someone. We learn just how far the corruption and blackmail reach, from prominent medical staff to the FBI.

We follow him as we learn more about the aims and methods of NuLife, the underworld of paid organ transplant, and the lengths people will go to when they are convinced of their own superiority. We watch as events cause McBride to lose everything, and witness how far people can go when pushed beyond their limits.

My Thoughts:

Right from the start I was hooked, the author has a talent for drip feeding information and just the right pace to keep you engaged, excited and needing to know more. The characters too are introduced slowly, and while there are quite a few minor characters, the major ones are easy to follow, a must for me as I struggle when there are too many characters.

The characters themselves are beautifully thought out too, there are many cases where the past, present and future are woven together and a large amount of foreshadowing, which still left me shocked at the reveal.

There were 2 factors that really made this novel stand out for me, watching how tragedy and coercion can erode even the strongest or morals, and the incredibly detailed medical information throughout. 

I cannot praise enough how good this book was at making you invest heavily in the main characters, and how you struggle, celebrate and mourn alongside them. The choices David McBride faces are truly horrendous and I couldn’t help but wish that there is no-one in real life that is having to make the same soul destroying decisions. This novel truly showcases the extremes of humanity that exist in this world, and how desperation can push people to make choices most of us can’t even imagine.

Don’t be put off by the medical content if you struggle with scientific jargon and have limited knowledge of medical procedures, the medical facts mostly serve to enhance the plot rather than being an integral part, and the few bits that are key are simple and well described. The author also includes a link to the glossary page on his website. Which is not only fantastic for a nerd like me but also a great resource for those looking to learn more about the subject and enhance their reading experience.

I was initially disappointed with the ending as I felt it was far too open and left me with more questions than I thought necessary. Then I discovered this book is the first in a trilogy and oh do I need to read the rest!

Overall this is a novel of blackmail, coercion and morality blended alongside the illegal world of paid organ transplants. I genuinely couldn’t put this down, I read it all in one sitting and then immediately looked online for the next 2 books.

A must read for anyone who enjoys crime thrillers or investigative novels and is looking for a twist on the normal content. 

Favourite quote:

“She was abandoning a scared and lonely soul and felt like shit for doing it, but as a cop, she collected pieces of human misery every day. The bin was getting full.”

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