I really enjoyed Larry Karp's latest novel, "A Perilous Conception." I found the book to be very interesting with all the details on IVF, and the plot was very good with several unexpected developments. For me, this was another of the author's can't-put-it-down novels. I especially liked Bernie Baumgartner and his somewhat unorthodox police procedures. Hope to read more of him in the future.
The wording is showing that I read a paperback. That's not true. I read the hardcover edition purchased from Amazon.
It is the year 1977 and Dr. Colin Sanford is on his way into his office in the Emerald Medical Tower in Emerald, Washington. Dr. Sanford, to hear him talk, is the most brilliant obstetrician that practices in the Pacific Northwest. After attending a lecture at the Washington Public University Medical Complex he meets Dr. Giselle Hearn, who runs a embryology lab at the University. The two doctors put their heads together and come up with a plan to produce a baby using invitro fertilization. The University is rather conservative and is against this so Dr. Hearn agrees to work with Dr. Sanford on the sly, working secretly to accomplish the feat of bringing the first invitro baby into the world. The very arrogant Dr. Sanford wants his name in the medical history books and will step on anyone who gets in his way on his quest for fame and fortune.
Subsequently, the two come up with a couple who have been trying to have a baby without results and Dr. Sanford, who has an excellent practice and also a great bedside manner, talks the Kennetts (Joyce and James) into trying this method in order to end up with a beautiful child. The invitro works and a healthy boy is born to the Kennetts. These are happy times in the offices of Dr. Sanford, and one day he is coming into work getting ready to attend a press conference in which he will announce that he and Dr. Hearn have 'created' the very first invitro baby; and they will introduce this child and his parents to the masses. Dr. Sanford is counting the money and patients he will receive for this accomplishment. (Of course, he intends to give Dr. Hearn a little credit.) When he enters his office he finds everyone looking like gloom and doom and is told that James Kennett went to see Dr. Hearn, and went into an uncontrolled rage, shooting Dr. Hearn and himself.
Police Detective Bernie Baumgartner of the Emerald Police Department is sent out on the case and stubbornly looks for the answers. His boss at the department and the powers at the University are exerting pressure on him to declare the case closed, placing the blame on a mentally unstable individual. But, this detective, to the detriment of his marriage and his job is like a dog with a bone and will not give up no matter who he goes after. This game that is played between the detective and the doctor, who both think that they are the best of the best plays out over these pages with a surprise in every chapter. Don't miss this one - it is a definite keeper. The author does a fantastic job with these two main characters. You love them one minute and hate them the next.
Larry Karp combines a slew of elegant and fun genre elements in this standalone novel that has the potential for series success if we, his readers, should happen to nag Karp enough. And we ought to. I certainly intend to give it my all, because this one's a keeper--a keeper in terms of background and in the characters Karp creates, and certainly in the way he treats both the era history (the mid-1970s) and the medicine involved in the story--a background no one could possibly handle as well as the author of the nonfiction The View From the Vue about Karp's internship at Bellevue Hospital.
What's A Perilous Conception about, you ask? It's about the high-stakes world of cutting-edge medicine and what kind of risks the researchers and practitioners are willing to take, even risks that lead to--well, this is a mystery--murder.
But the novel isn't entirely a medical thriller a la Michael Crichton or Robin Cook since the main protagonist is a policeman, who has the shooting of an embryologist to investigate--even though the woman's killer is obvious from the get-go. Oh yes. But here more than meets the eye must be uncovered and an earlier disappearance--is a lab manager dead or did she just take off?--solved.
Something isn't quite adding up, and Detective Baumgartner wants to prove that Dr. Sanford, an obstetrician focused on being the first to succeed with in vitro fertilization, is involved to the max.
The novel offers everything an innovative and entertaining mystery should. Chalk up another mega-achievement for Dr. Karp.
In 1977 in Emerald, Washington, obstetrician Colin Sanford believes his name and face will be recognized by peers and even the public. Assisted by embryologist Giselle Hearn, he has completed the first in vitro fertilization of an infertile patient, Joyce Kennett.
Colin prepares to host a news conference where he will announce to the world the birth of Joyce's son. However, Joyce's husband, James commits murder/suicide when he shoots Hearn before killing himself. Changing his plans, Colin cancels the news conference and hides an incriminating log book. Meanwhile Emerald Police Detective Bernie Baumgartner leads the investigation into what seems a closed case. However, he finds an anomaly when Hearn's chair at the University OBGYN department Dr. L. Gerald Camnitz, who opposed the technique under moral and legal grounds, vanished. Sanford proves uncooperative as he fears the scandal will cost him his place in history; the University also stonewalls the inquiry as they fear the loss of federal funding. Still Baumgartner keeps digging as something seems off kilter besides a missing chair.
This is a super twisting medical murder and historical thriller that brings to life the competion to be first to successfully use in vitro fertilization. Fast-paced with a cat and mouse chess game between two intelligent stubborn men, fans will appreciate Larry Karp's interesting suspense.