Amanda DuBois’ debut novel, THE COMPLICATION, opens with a tense scene in the operating room, where routine surgery takes a sinister turn. Sixty-five-year-old Dallas Jackson is admitted to Friday Harbor Hospital in the Seattle area for a typically straightforward procedure but becomes an unexpected fatality at the hands of a prestigious surgeon, Dr. Andrew Willcox. With no income and of advancing years, Dallas Jackson’s demise seems unlikely to ring any serious alarm bells – but Willcox does not anticipate that his otherwise innocuous patient has one particularly resourceful and loyal friend: amateur sleuth Camille Delaney.
A little digging by Camille uncovers a growing number of question marks around the seemingly untouchable Willcox: Why is there no record of him having attended Harvard? Why no medical notes from Max Gonzalez, who assisted during Dallas’ operation? Why does Willcox have Camille watched in response to discovering her interest in him, and subsequently warn her off? DuBois makes no secret of the fact that Willcox is up to no good – his guilt is not the source of the suspense; the mystery derives from Camille’s quest to bring him to justice, which is riven with obstacles, threats, and setbacks.
This novel is largely plot-driven but centers around the character of Camille. While being a somewhat two-dimensional character, Camille is nevertheless relatable. Despite earning big bucks as a divorce lawyer for a successful law firm, she still hankers after the satisfaction of taking on pro bono cases and making a difference to the lives of the under-represented in society. The suspicious death of Dallas triggers this yearning, as Camille embarks on her quest to get to the bottom of the ‘complication’ that took place during his surgery. Either courageously or naively, she discards her lucrative post and risks all – including her marriage – in her endeavors to get to the truth. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Dallas’ death is part of a much bigger operation than the cover-up of a procedure gone wrong, with several key characters on the payroll of the central perpetrator. At times, the reader is required to suspend disbelief. The array of friends and acquaintances prepared to compromise their careers and livelihoods in order to help Camille is implausible, as is the ultimate understanding of her husband Sam (despite his – lukewarm – objections to his wife’s recklessness). The twist in the tale is also difficult for the more cynical to digest – but if there is any natural habitat for the unlikely, then a work of fiction has to be it. And the incredulity is offset by the entertainment factor and its role in contributing to a satisfying denouement. A big plus factor is the author’s clearly authentic knowledge of both medicine and the law, which she combines here in a thoroughly enjoyable yarn.
THE COMPLICATION is a well-researched, entertaining and fast-paced mystery that is clearly and simply expounded; it introduces a character that fans of the genre will identify with and most likely will want to follow in subsequent novels in the series.
~Amanda Ellison for IndieReader