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Book Review - Oath of Office by Michael Palmer
Thomas Admin Duff    

A picture named M2

It's been awhile since I've read a novel from Michael Palmer. While I like medical thrillers (which he does very well), I tend to shy away from novels of any sort that appear to have an agenda or opinion that the author wants to promote.  All too often, the plot ends up as an after-thought, a structure to argue the author's viewpoint.  I went in with that mindset for Palmer's Oath of Office, expecting that there would be some controversial topic that would be driving the action.  While I wasn't surprised that I found one, I was pleasantly surprised (and pleased) that it didn't overwhelm the story, and had me thinking that I should investigate more deeply.

The story revolves around Dr. Lou Welcome, a physician who ends up on the firing line for another doctor's murderous rampage.  Dr. John Meacham, counselled by Dr. Welcome to overcome addiction that caused his license to be revoked, goes on a shooting spree in his office that ends up with four dead. He then turns the gun on himself and inflicts a critical wound. Welcome rushes to the hospital, and observes that the ER staff is strangely detached and non-caring about whether Meacham survives or not. On top of these two confusing incidents, a worker at a local restaurant (where Welcome is eating at the time) nearly gets his finger cut off when he reaches for a carrot being sliced by the chef.  It's as if all these people lost their senses and made decisions they could not explain (nor could anyone else).  Welcome finds these occurrences very disturbing, and starts to search for any common thread that might tie all these bizarre behaviors together.

I'll leave any further description unsaid, as it would start to border on plot spoilers.  I found that since I was expecting and looking for some controversy to drive the plot, I ended up seeing some of the plot twists before they happened. Even so, it didn't detract much from the story.  When I was finished, I realized I had some additional reading and research to do in order to satisfy questions that came up in my mind.  If a novel can get me to do that, it's pretty unusual...

I personally thought Oath of Office was a good read.  I can see where some people will disagree with his overall premise for various reasons, and it will probably have a significant effect on how much they enjoy the story.  However, I think the more prevalent effect to be to cause the reader to start questioning things that they've ignored to date.

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Apr 01, 2012
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