GrimCredit: Photo by Mark HillaryCredit: Photo by Mark Hillary

Josh Bazell’s relentless debut novel ‘Beat the Reaper’ grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Its good, scary good, raising the bar for first time authors the world over.

Enter the blistering tale of Peter Brown, a Manhattan hospital intern with more to hide than most, a former mob hitman under witness protection.

A man with a new name a new life and the same old habits.

 Once recognised by a patient, and former mob acquaintance, he begins the race to keep his patient (and therefore himself) still alive.

 I picked this book up on a recommendation and didn’t really have high hopes for it to be honest (something the synopsis didn’t really help with) but once I started I was hooked and finished it within the day.

 Bazell’s writing style is uncompromising and filled with sarcastic and edgy dialogue (it just makes you feel cool by association) and Peter Brown is an utterly convincing (and often darkly hilarious character). Readers should be warned this book doesn’t pull any punches and some of the content and imagery can be pretty intense, but its worth it, so worth it.

 The book bounds through between Peter’s predicament in the hospital as he frantically tries to save the lives of his patients knowing a squad of hitmen are descending on him and flashbacks into his past as ‘The Bearclaw’ showing how and why he became a hired killer.

 One of the great touches in this novel is the way Bazell (a real MD) has peppered it with footnotes of fascinating medical trivia delivered in a wonderfully entertaining and cynical way.

Like this:

*Scrub suits are reversible, with pockets on both sides, in case you need to run anesthesia or whatever but are too tired to put your pants on correctly.

These constant and engaging tangents add a great deal to the novel, written in a style that constantly winks at you in between the adrenaline inducing violence and sharp wit, in which you come to be fascinated with the storytelling and the character of Peter, a man with the integrity to want to redeem himself for killing in cold blood and the capacity to do it in the first place.

Oh and I just have to admit that the ending is one of my favourites (kind of gruesome but undeniably great). If you haven’t been forcibly carried away by a book for a while then get your hands on a copy of Beat the Reaper and thank me later.