28/03/2005

On Call (by Anita Burgh)

Yesterday I finished reading 'On Call' by Anita Burgh. It's a modern medical mild thriller and light romance - not the sort of thing I'd normally read, but I was given it a while ago, and I like to try something different every so often.

I thought it was very well-written, and my lack of medical knowledge wasn't a problem. It focuses on St Edith's, a community hospital which is in danger of closing. It also focuses on Chrissy, a nurse who recently lost her husband and has moved back to her home-town to take a senior post at St Edith's. Unfortunately not everybody is happy for her to have this post, and she finds herself in the midst of conflict almost immediately. At the same time there are clearly some underhand discussions going on, and a few unscrupulous people who care nothing for the patients.

I also felt the characters were fairly well-drawn and rounded; there were a couple of redoubtable elderly ladies who featured, and I could easily get a feel for several of the other characters.

My main problem with this book was the sheer number of people involved, most of whom were introduced within the first few chapters, switching scenes rapidly and leaving me bewildered about who was who. Perhaps this would have worked in a film - a snapshot of different places, following a few significant people going about their everyday lives or having a secret conversation. But in a book, with name after name and little to go on visually, I lost track very quickly; I was about half-way through the book before I had sorted out the major characters, because in the early chapters it wasn't really obvious who the most important people were.

I found the plot a little melodramatic too, and rather too easily resolved in the end with an intense and rather quick conclusion. There were one or two surprises, which were unexpected but almost too much so - I found them not entirely believable. I also found it hard to believe that the few unscrupulous people could really be as bad as they were made out to be!

I doubt if I'll read it again, although who knows? I might come across it in a few years and try it again. I liked the style - it was eminently readable, and I mostly kept interested although I have to admit to skipping a few chapters in the middle which didn't seem to be moving anywhere.

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