The last thing plastic surgery resident Jackson Maebry wants at the end of a long day in the operating room is a call to the ER. Once he gets there, what he finds is worse than his most hellish imaginings: a young woman, beaten and burned almost beyond recognition, a trauma case as terrible as any he has ever seen. What Jackson's colleagues don't know is that the victim, Allie, is actually his lover.
With Allie in a coma, Jackson keeps their relationship quiet and takes part in her reconstruction, a complicated and grueling set of procedures that only the most skilled specialists can perform. But as he and the other doctors struggle to put her back together, the fractures in Jackson's own life begin to break apart dramatically. When the San Francisco Police Department's investigation of the attack leads to his door, Jackson knows the truth can no longer be suppressed.
Ghost Image is an expertly plotted, chillingly vivid, and wholly absorbing mystery, signaling the debut of an unforgettable new voice in the genre. Taking readers inside the operating room and literally under the skin of its patients, it's a story that will appeal to those fascinated by medicine and forensics. It is also a story -- like all classic crime novels -- about guilt and innocence, good and evil. But, above all, it is a story of love -- the kind of love that might prove deadly, or that might just save your soul.
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Simon & Schuster
October 21, 2002
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Excerpt from Ghost Image by Joshua Gilder
It was Stern's idea, originally, that I keep a diary, a record; that I write it down as I remember it and as it happens to me. "Just get it out. Get it down on paper. You need to objectify things, Jackson," he told me. That's one of Stern's favorite words, "objectify."
Stern is my psychiatrist, my shrink. He's also my colleague, a member of the teaching staff at the hospital where I work, which is why I can afford to see him -- the administration subsidizes the therapy of those residents who feel they need it. No doubt a prudent precaution. Medicine is a stressful occupation.
"You never need to show the diary to anyone," he assured me. It would be just for our sessions together. Only Stern would see it. But even that isn't possible any longer. It's gone too far beyond that now.
I remember in the beginning, when I first started therapy, I thought Stern would be my deliverance from this constant fear; from this past that pursues me and still has the power to reach out and pull me back. Like one of those bad dreams when you're on the border of consciousness, trying to wake up. Therapy would be the door that led out into the world everyone else seemed to inhabit, the one where normal people live normal lives. In time, I thought, I would be able to walk through that door and be free. Instead, week after week, it just led me right back to Stern, the dispassionate dissector of people's souls, slouched in his chair as if he'd never moved from the spot, like some gargoyle watching over a dark cathedral.
Stern believes that I became a doctor to try, in some symbolic way, to get close to my father. He was a cardiac surgeon who died, somewhat ironically, of heart complications a while after abandoning our family and the crazy wife, my mother, who had become such a burden to him. Very possibly, Stern is right, but as with so much he says, I feel it somehow misses the point.