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1977 Robin Cook’s second book, COMA, catapulted him into the
limelight, and he has been a bestselling author ever since. He is
the “father” of the medical thriller, and his 27th
effort, CRITICAL, is another fast-paced, character-driven chiller.
This time he challenges the notion of “specialized private
hospitals” that resemble hotels and are

“I heard the government had a moratorium against them for a
while” says Dr. Ravelo. “The government was against
them for a time, because [they] involve some level of physician
ownership to guarantee a continual flow of patients.” And
readers learn that these hospitals are “not whole
hospital[s]…they do only a number of limited services, [says]
Dr. Ravelo.”

This conversation has come up because, under the aegis of Angels
Healthcare, a sudden breakout of a rare staph infection is sending
patients to the medical examiners’ slabs instead of home.
Cook has brought back his former medical examiners, Dr. Laurie
Montgomery and her husband, Jack, who is scheduled for knee surgery
at Angels Orthopedic Hospital. But Laurie is against him going
under the knife at this time, especially at an Angels facility.
News of a young, healthy man who died of sepsis after the same
procedure Jack needs will put him in the same operating room as the
deceased. Since Jack is determined to go ahead with his surgery
anyway, Laurie feels compelled to investigate and get to the bottom
of the problem. Almost as soon as she starts comparing
patients’ charts does a pattern of deaths after relatively
simple operations emerges from Angels Hospitals.

The number of deaths at their facilities terrifies those behind the
institution. Their reputation is at stake, but even more, they are
planning to take their investor-driven “business”
public. First, they don’t want to lose their cash cow, and
second, they don’t want people to die, which could bury their
IPO. But Angela Dawson, the founder and CEO of Angels Hospitals, is
willing to sell her soul to keep the media in the dark about the
problems while she scurries around seeking money.

When she was looking for seed money for this start-up business, she
turned to her ex-husband Michael, a “money man.” He did
find investors and an anonymous donor who gave millions to the
enterprise. What he didn’t tell her is that the money was
coming from a longtime, high-ranking Mafioso. When the IPO is in
danger of not going public as scheduled, Vinnie Dominick gets very
angry. He reads the riot act to Michael when he comes back to
Vinnie to beg for $200,000 more to get them over the short

Vinnie is furious and will get his revenge. Enter the thugs. Of
course they are the stereotypical bad guys, who are shadowed by a
cop and a dark figure that stays in the shadows. These
“soldiers” start off with two murders and continue
their hunt for their perceived nemesis, Laurie Montgomery. The
bodies begin to stack up, and the MEs are working overtime.

Readers always find themselves riveted to Cook’s books from
the first few sentences to the explosive climax --- and CRITICAL is
no exception. Fans know what to expect from his novels: a lot of
dialogue that drives the plot along at a breakneck pace and an
interesting story played out by characters who fit their roles
beautifully. This is a perfectly entertaining beach book and
vacation thriller.


Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 28, 2010

by Robin Cook

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425222888
  • ISBN-13: 9780425222881