A killer turned healer, sounds like a good thing. This book pushes these extremes to the limits of credulity. And when it appears that the story has gone as far as it can go, the reader is presented with an ending that only a medical student with too much time on their hands could have dreamed up. This book has to be close to the ultimate in the medical thriller genre.
The narration of this story is told through the first person voice of a former hired killer who is now a physician working in an inner city hospital, a transition facilitated by the Federal Witness Protection Plan. The story has the ambiance of ER or Grey's Anatomy, but with more and longer digressions and flashbacks. Over half the book consists of flashbacks so the book ends up being two parallel and simultaneous thriller narratives. And it even has footnotes, which probably indicates that the author hasn't fully recovered from his academic life. Since this book is very much a work of fiction, I wouldn't trust the footnotes, but they sure appear to be reasonably valid class notes of a typical medical student.
The story's protagonist is following in the killer-to-healer footsteps of his grandfather who (together with his grandmother) was a Jewish resistance fighter in Poland during WWII, and then became a medical doctor post war. Some doubt is thrown on this history later in the story. But the author uses this history to make critical remarks about the anti-Semitic sentiments of Poland, both people and government. He even takes a swipe at "...Pope Pius XII, who in 1941 announced that Nazi policies did not conflict with Catholic teachings.
" He continues, "When Pius gets sanctified, I hope they cite that as his miracle.
" The author doesn't make the Mafia very look good either, but we all knew that already.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his partners have acquired the screen rights to Beat the Reaper, with an eye towards the actor playing the lead. Here's a link to a promotional video about the book: http://www.goodreads.com/videos/show/1999.Beat_the_Reaper_Video
(Warning, the video contains violence and may be, or may not be, considered a spoiler by some.)
A quote from book:
"...what a fascinating mix a hospital can be of people in a huge hurry and people too slow to get out of their way.
One potential benefit of this book is that it may motivate readers to remain healthy in order to avoid hospitalization. This is not recommended reading for patients currently in the hospital.