Review of “Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell

This is an often exciting thriller, perfect for a long day on an airplane or a rainy Saturday. The language and sexual descriptions can be discomforting, but the careening pace will keep you turning the pages. It’s not what you’d call “great literature,” but it’s pretty good entertainment.


Peter Brown is the new witness-protection program name of Pietro Brnwa, called “Bearclaw” by the New Jersey mob for which he served as a hitman. Now he’s a doctor working in a run-down New York hospital, but he hasn’t quite left his old lifestyle behind him. His past forces him to run a daily gauntlet with “The Reaper” (death). As we learn more about how he got to be the way he is, we also get to like him more. In the meanwhile, his flip and trenchant observations about health care and hospital life are as fun and interesting as you might imagine for a noir version of Grey’s Anatomy.

The writing shows some definite skill, even though some of it is of the “eeuw gross, but don’t stop!” variety. The author (who narrates in chapters that alternate back and forth in time) makes his protagonist sound so real, I kept feeling like the escapades he describes must have actually happened to him.

…I hope not. I prefer my doctors to be godlike! Fun read.

Published by Little, Brown & Company, 2009


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4 Responses to Review of “Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I enjoyed this book, too. One of the scenes at the end really made me cringe, though.

  2. Me too! I’m pretty sure I know the one you mean. I was so amazed by it when I read it, that I tried to read it to some people we had over for dinner then, and they made me stop!

  3. Alyce says:

    Good review of this book. I agree with your take on it. That scene at the end was the one that made me gasp outloud. It definitely held my attention.

  4. Pingback: Josh Bazell, Author of “Beat the Reaper” at the Tucson Festival of Books « Rhapsodyinbooks’s Weblog

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