From the blockbuster, eleven-time New York Times bestselling author comes a novel of medical suspense that begins with these chilling questions: Who ends up with the blood samples you routinely give for tests? What else are they being used for? Why don't you know?
Take a Deep Breath. . . .
In Boston, a disgraced medical student is sent to deliver a research paper that could save her career. . . . Four thousand miles away, in a jungle hospital in Cameroon, a brilliant, reclusive scientist, dying from an incurable disease that threatens to make each tortured breath his last, is on the verge of perfecting a serum that could save millions of lives, and bring others inestimable wealth. . . . In Chicago, a disillusioned private detective, on the way to his third career, is hired to determine the identify of a John Doe, killed on a Florida highway, with mysterious marks on his body.
Three seemingly disconnected lives, surging unrelentingly toward one another. Three lives becoming irrevocably intertwined. Three lives in mounting peril, moving ever closer to the ultimate confrontation against a deadly secret society with godlike aspirations and roots in antiquity.
Medical student. Scientist. Private eye. Three people who will learn the deeper meanings of brilliance and madness, truth and deception, trust and betrayal.
Three lives linked forever by a single vial of blood--the fifth vial.
Bestseller Palmer (The Society) tackles the illegal transplant organ trade in his entertaining 12th medical suspense novel. What do three very different people--Harvard medical student Natalie Reyes, Chicago PI Ben Callahan and scientific genius Joe Anson--have in common? Natalie, in Brazil for a conference, is attacked, hospitalized and loses a lung; Ben gets hired to discover how a mutilated anonymous body died; Joe, the inventor of an untested medical breakthrough, is forced into an operation for his life-threatening pulmonary fibrosis. All three seek answers connected to the Whitestone Foundation, a conglomerate that's a front for the Guardians, a secret cabal of medical specialists. At a hidden hospital in the Brazilian rain forest, Natalie and Ben learn of the Guardians' insidious methods. Huge sums are at stake as the arrogant Guardians make medical decisions largely motivated by greed. The action, which begins plausibly, becomes less so as the tension builds. Still, Palmer, himself an M.D., does a good job of informing the reader on an important ethical issue. 225,000 printing; author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
November 27, 2007
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Excerpt from The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer
The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions.
Go ahead and sew him up, Ms. Reyes."
Natalie stared at the slice down Darren Jones's forehead, across his eyebrow, and down his cheek. Until this moment, the largest knife wound she had ever seen was one she had accidentally inflicted on her own finger. Treatment then had been a couple of Band-Aids. She forced herself not to make eye contact with Cliff Renfro, the surgical senior resident in charge of the ER, and followed him out to the hallway.
In her three years and one month as a medical student, she had sutured countless pillows, several varieties of fruit, some ragged stuffed animals, and recently, at what she considered great peril, the seat of a pair of her favorite jeans. Renfro's order didn't make much sense. She was only two hours into her second day on the ER rotation at Metropolitan Hospital of Boston, and although Renfro had checked her diagnostic skills out on several patients, he had yet to see her sew.
"Dr. Renfro, I . . . um . . . think maybe I should go over things with you before--"
"Not necessary. When you're finished, write a scrip for him for some antibiotic--any one. I'll sign it."
The resident turned and was gone before she could respond. Her classmate and good friend, Veronica Kelly, who had already finished her surgical rotation at Metropolitan, had told her that Renfro was in his final year before taking over as chief surgical resident at White Memorial, the flagship of the medical school's many famous teaching hospitals. After years of training, he had the air of one who had seen it all and was burnt out on what he considered the lowlife patient population of Metro.
"Renfro's smart and damn competent," Veronica had said, "and he'll take the really messy trauma cases. But he couldn't care less about the routine stuff."
Apparently he considered a black teenage loser in a gang fight to be routine. Natalie hesitated outside the boy's room, wondering what the fallout would be if she chased Renfro down and asked for a demonstration of his skill.
"You okay, Nat?"
The nurse, a gravel-voiced veteran of years in the ER, had given a portion of yesterday's student orientation, including the tradition that in a hardscrabble place like Metro, almost all the staff used first names. Hers was Bev--Bev Richardson.
"I asked for this rotation because I heard the students got to do a lot of procedures, but sewing up a kid's face on my second day is a bit more than I had expected."
"Have you sutured before?"
"Nothing that was ever alive, except a few unfortunate oranges."
"Cliff's a darn good doc, but he's a little immature at times and can be hard on people. And the truth is, I don't think he cares all that much for our clientele."
"Well, I do," Natalie said, stopping short of a litany of the many times earlier in her life when she had been wheeled or carried or dragged into this very ER.
"We like having people working around here who care. The patients have it hard enough everyplace else. Their hospital ought to be something of a sanctuary."
"I second that. Well, Dean Goldenberg has told me that he's heard I'm going to be accepted into the White Memorial surgical residency. Maybe Dr. Renfro has heard the same thing and he's just testing me."
"Or maybe he senses that you're not like him and he wants to see if you'll back down from the challenge."
"He wouldn't be the first," Natalie replied, already setting her jaw and mentally ticking through the pages of the plastic surgery text she had reviewed during the week before this rotation.
"You're the runner, aren't you?"
The question didn't startle Natalie in the least. Her tragic accident during the Olympic trials was chronicled on the local and national news and the cover of Sports Illustrated. From the day she started med school as a thirty-two-year-old first-year student, people knew who she was.
"Past tense," she said, her terse response requesting a change in subject.
"Think you can do this boy's face?"
"At least he'll have someone working on him who gives a hoot, if that means anything."
"It means plenty," Bev said. "Go ahead in there. I'll get you set up with some six-oh nylon suture. Even though most of them aren't, we assume everyone down here who is bleeding is HIV-positive, so best wear a gown and plastic face shield. If I think you're going wrong in any way, I'll clear my throat and you can come away and we can talk. Keep your fingers away from the needle. Straight instrument ties, double overhand knots about an eighth of an inch apart. Don't pull them so tight that the skin edges bunch, and don't shave his eyebrow because they never grow back right."
"Welcome to the ER," Bev said.