“Doctor mauled to death in Safari Park.”
Israeli author Martin Sherwood (the nom de plume of Motti Sharir, M.D., Ph.D., a practicing ophthalmologist and glaucoma researcher) writes thrillers and screenplays. As Motti Sharir he contributes books, book chapters and journal articles on glaucoma. Outside of medicine he has been a journalist and editor, and aired a radio program about folk music and poetry. He lives in Tel Aviv.
Martin utilizes his keen diagnostic skills to lead us through one of the better murder mysteries cum medical thrillers to come down the pike in a while. In a story that focuses on murders he opens with the following – ‘Maintaining a safe distance, Captain Ramzi Issa sucked on a sage-flavored Riccola and observed the lions at the safari park. He cursed silently. He had better ideas for his spare time than spending an especially hot early June Saturday afternoon facing the park’s huge, well-fed beasts of prey. Fadi, his firstborn son, was still too young to enjoy a trip the zoo and when Issa had been appointed to head the district’s special investigations team, he couldn’t have imagined he’d be expected to investigate a deadly attack by an wild animal. Issa shaded his eyes from the sun and moved toward the end of the path in order to get a better look at the body lying on a semi-sheltered slab in front of the cages. It looked like an image taken straight from an ancient Egyptian burial chamber – the corpse was lying on its side, arms and legs bent, its face to the front and back facing behind. As if startled in the middle of a run. Oddly, the slab under the corpse was devoid of blood. But strangest of all was its neck. There was no neck. The skull remained connected to the shoulders with only two narrow straps of skin and sinew. Parts of the breathing cartilage were exposed. Behind the Captain stood his loyal assistant, Staff Sergeant Rona Pizanti, a wireless telephone hanging from her shoulder, her eyes glued to the fresh tire marks left behind in the mud and disappearing into the puddle. Water accumulating from a burst irrigation pipe had crossed a dent in the path, flowed toward a canal and concentrated beside a side gate in the Safari wall.’
With those ominous elements in place the plot is summarized for us – ‘Can a deathly ill young woman possibly be connected to a psychopathic killer and all those bodies? Oneg has it all; good looks, a loving family, and a profession she adores. One day her pampered world collapses as she contracts a rare life-threatening drug side-effect. Her health rapidly deteriorates - She is put on a respirator, in strict isolation, awaiting a bone marrow transplant. Then a psychopathic killer with an avenging guitar comes to her rescue, crooning that NOTHING will stop him from saving Oneg. Exsanguinated corpses of prominent surgeons start to emerge in unexpected places, the last barely alive – naked and delirious, tied to a tree. Detective Ramzi Issa and his team are at a loss. Deep, dark secrets . . . heinous deeds of long ago . . . Oneg's young and fearless sister, Erga, starts digging into the mysterious link between the doctors and her beloved sis, leading her to dangerous secrets originating at a Tel Aviv University medical school party thirty years before. This medical thriller takes the reader to a horrible past cover-up that returns to haunt everyone involved, blending the hospital ICU, together with tissue lab, blood bank, and hidden identities.’
Crystalline writing that blends raw language with contemporary issues as this horrifying and tremendously well-crafted book marks the literary debt of a new and important author. Recommended.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.