Beat the Reaper Review
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The new year begins with one big, action-packed, stomach-turning, sleep-deprived, watch-your-back bang in author/doctor Josh Bazell’s debut novel, Beat the Reaper.

When Pietro Brwna was 14, the grandparents who raised him where gunned down in their New Jersey home. Obsessed with avenging their deaths—and convinced that the mob was to blame—Pietro enrolled himself in a mob-heavy boarding school. There, he met Skinflick, the son of mob lawyer David Locano.

Pietro quickly became a part of the Locanos’ family. And after he killed the two men responsible for his grandparents’ death, Pietro began taking the occasional contract job.

Now, Pietro is known as Dr. Peter Brown. After joining the witness protection program several years ago, he put himself through med school—and he’s currently interning at a crappy hospital in Manhattan, where life is a blur of senile patients, wake-up drugs, and incompetent med students. Everything changes, though, when he walks into a room to give a patient his test results and discovers that the patient is a former mob associate known as Eddy Squillante. Squillante threatens to rat Peter out to the Locanos if anything happens to him—which wouldn’t be a problem if he weren’t dying of stomach cancer.

So now Dr. Brown suddenly has one more life to save: his own.

Flipping back and forth between Pietro’s past with the mob and Peter’s present-day race to keep Squillante (and himself) alive, Beat the Reaper is both a medical thriller and a mob story at the same time—and that makes it a fascinating and fast-paced read.

Despite his history as a mob hit man and gruff, no-nonsense attitude, Pietro/Peter is a surprisingly likeable character—a hit man with heart, if you will. As you read, you’ll see where he’s been and what he’s been through. You might even feel just a little bit sorry for him—and you’ll keep your fingers crossed that he’ll make it out alive.

Bazell sets Beat the Reaper apart from the same old crime thriller with his fresh and offbeat style—and his twisted sense of humor. He fills the story with fascinating little observations and a random smattering of footnotes. Along the way, you’ll even learn a little bit about the medical field—as well as an interesting new use for your fibula. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll most likely end up with a deep and debilitating fear of hospitals.

This darkly funny novel definitely isn’t for the faint of heart—not only because of its adrenaline-pumping action but also because it’s expletive-laced and unflinchingly graphic. Those who can’t stand the thought of blood will want to steer clear—and even those who can handle a little bit of blood and gore here and there might want to choose something else for their lunch break reading. At other, non-mealtimes, though, you’re sure to enjoy this eccentric adventure.

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