Medical thrillers have been a big hit on the bookstands for the past couple of decades. Just like their lawyer-thriller counterparts, medical thrillers gain fans by being fast-paced with plenty of action, jargon and situations that are best written by someone who has been in the field. With Lie Still, David Farris, a pediatric anesthesiologist, has thrown his hat into the ring, with mixed results.
Lie Still is the story of unfortunate resident Malcolm Ishmail. Despite what his name may suggest, Dr. Ishmail is a smalltown white doctor from Nebraska who comes to Arizona to conduct his residency. While in brain surgery training, Malcolm begins a relationship with his supervisor, Dr. Mimi Lyle. Although the relationship is based completely on sex and not trust, Dr. Lyle makes a late-night confession to Malcolm that she cannot see three dimensionally, a major drawback in the brain surgery profession. Malcolm tries to put the confession behind him, but begins to get scared when he sees Dr. Lyle botch a couple of surgeries, almost certainly due to her confessed "defect".
After speaking with his father, a general practice surgeon back in Nebraska, Malcolm decides to go to his main supervisor and report what he has heard. An inquisition starts, culminating in Malcolmís dismissal. Starting anew in a smaller ER, Malcolm is presented with the case of Henry Rojelio, a pre-teen who has a reputation of lying and exhibitionism as well as moderate asthma. Malcolm gives him a shot of adrenaline, a cure that has worked for the boy every time heís come into the ER in the past, only to have the boy stop breathing and nearly die. Although they are able to stabilize Henry, he heads for a life in a coma and Malcolm is accused by a nurse of malpractice. The more he looks into the accusations, the more he thinks it might have to do with his incident with Dr. Lyle. Will Malcolm be able to discover the link before his career is ruined?
Although it presents a number of interesting ER stories and a good basic plot, Lie Still suffers from a few fatal flaws. The first is the lack of energy. Almost everything unfolds at a slow pace, keeping the excitement level to a minimum and making the pages go very slowly. The second is that the book jumps back and forth from the incident with Mimi Lyle, to the case of Henry Rojelio, to the current time after both are over with. While this may work in other books, it does not here, making Lie Still confusing and breaking up what little rhythm there is. The final flaw is the lack of interesting characters. Dr. Ishmail is consistently bland with a few sparks of inappropriate behavior that make him a pretty unsympathetic hero. Dr. Lyle could have been interesting, but she is not delved into enough and just comes off as egotistical and unfeeling.
Though David Farris has proved that he can come up with a decent medical plot, he has not shown that he can make it exciting or populate it with interesting characters. While itís possible to get through Lie Still, itís less likely that you will pick up the next book that Farris writes.