This is the first in the Hope Sze series; I’m afraid that this first does not instill in me any desire to read more of the series.
Dr. Hope Sze arrives for her first year of residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Montreal. The day after she arrives, when she is working her first shift, the body of Dr. Kurt Radshaw, a dedicated and respected physician, is discovered. Since his death is suspicious, Hope immediately sets out to find the killer.
My first issue with the book is Hope’s motivation for wanting to find the murderer. She has just begun working at the hospital and meets Dr. Radshaw once; nonetheless, she appoints herself the lead investigator? She states, “But something in me wasn’t content to sit around and wait for the [autopsy] report. The more I found out about Dr. Radshaw, the more I wanted to uncover the truth” (75). Later, she explains, “’I guess I was one of the first people to find him. When I met him, he seemed like a nice guy. And everyone loved him so much. I just wanted to make it up to him somehow’” (90). Minutes later, she thinks, “Maybe if we looked into his death, it would help free Alex [from Dr. Radshaw’s shadow]” (97). In case the reader is not convinced, she repeats, “But the more I got to know about Dr. Radshaw, the more curious I got” (113). A few pages later, she adds, “Even though I never really knew Dr. Kurt alive, I still respected him and wanted him to be at peace” (121) and “I hadn’t been able to bring him back to life. But maybe I could make sure he hadn’t died in vain” (121). Yet again, “His death wasn’t right. I wanted to fix it’ (158). None of these statements convince me. Would she react the same way if one of her patients died?
Then there are the gaps in logic. A code blue is called for the operating room but the body is found in the men’s change room? While having lunch with Hope, Alex says, “’You don’t even like rum balls’” (96); what a stupid comment since there is no way he would know this, especially when she had just joked that she’d like all the desserts (87). How is it that they have two different desserts when their lunch included “the dessert of the day” (88)? One minute a bed has “an orange, plaid blanket and white sheets” (188) and the next minute it has “orange plaid sheets . . . [with] their pattern of red, yellow, and green stripes” (189). At one point, Hope says, “Alex had turned off the air conditioning” (200) but then he “flicked off the air conditioning” (202) again?
Hope is new to the hospital, yet she knows a lot about its functioning: “I heard you needed a numerical access code for the elevator” (43) and “Bob Clarkson was originally a family doctor, but he’d cut his patients loose after he’d gone into administration” (129). Then at other times, she is so stupid. She actually feels she has to call the police and tell them that if they found Dr. Radshaw’s pager, they could trace who might have called him (226)? She can spot an abused woman, based on contact for a few minutes, yet she can’t recognize drug usage in someone with whom she has regular contact? What “had been nagging at the back of [her] head” (176) should have been at the forefront!
The book has a lot of extraneous detail. Do we always have to be told, in detail, what someone is wearing? “She was wearing a non-descript, black shirt and white, knee-length shorts” (161) and “My gaze moved to his walnut dress pants and leather sneakers. They were like old Adidas, with the stripes and little lace-ups, except instead of red and white canvas, they were made of medium-brown leather” (228) and “a grey shirt with solid red sleeves, ‘80s style, dark olive cargo pants, and sandals” (229) and “A full-length, stretchy black skirt, a white cotton shirt, even a chunky bead necklace” (122) and “a fitted, ultramarine blouse and white, pleated skirt which fell about mid-thigh” (165). Hope’s descriptions of people suggest a shallowness: “Her square-jawed face might have been pretty, if she hadn’t been forcing a smile” (10) and “her eyes a little close-set for classic beauty” (44) and “His features were too coarse to be good-looking” (110).
Did a copyeditor not proofread this book before publication? A couple of errors can be excused but there are just so many. I started keeping track only after the first 100 pages: “we’d only suffered once suspicious death recently” (129) and “I seemed to be doing a lot sneaking around today” (131) and “If I hadn’t been still been breathing hard . . .” (141) and “Those are two the specialties where the nurses are notoriously protective . . . ” (149) and “I check out her way her shoulders seemed to huddle against him” (161) and “released me enough to flick the on the light switch” (188) and “I have to go outside the soak the speculum in warm water” (219) and “I bet attrition took its toll over course of the afternoon” (240).
This is supposed to be a mystery but the mystery is often in the background. I would have preferred more mystery and less romance. That detailed sex scene seems to have been included just to titillate. And don’t get me started on the melodramatic scenes. For example, Mireille’s visit to Hope’s apartment has a lot of “up close” action: “We were so close that I could see the small brown freckles on her nose, cheeks, and forehead” (101) and “Up close, [her eyes] were hazel, green with brown webs in her irises” (102) and “She pressed so close that our noses almost touched” (102) and “She pushed her face in mine” (103) and “She came close enough that I could smell her breath” (103).
From the perspective of an Ontarian living close to the Quebec border, I chuckled at some of Hope’s commentary. “When I hit the Quebec border . . . I noticed that my Ford Focus began bouncing over more frequent potholes” (7) and “Some planning committee thought it was a good idea to run Highway 20 through the heart of little bergs” (7) are comments my husband and I have made on our way east to Montreal. But then, Hope goes on and on about the police: “I never wanted to meet the Sûreté de Québec. The only time they make the national news is when they shoot young black men for no defensible reason. When I got my match results, that I’d be doing family medicine in Montreal, one unbidden thought was, I hope they don’t shoot me. They didn’t regularly mow down young Asian women, but I figured, once unbalanced, always unbalanced” (38). After these remarks, her complaint that “Some people meet you and immediately think they know you through the o-so-true stereotypes” (100) seems hypocritical.
I know my review is harsh, but I honestly found little to like about the book. It should have been more carefully revised and edited. Perhaps the later books in the series are better in this respect? As is, the writing of this book is the equivalent of my doing surgery with only the knowledge gained from a basic first aid course and medical dramas on television.