Fatal Remedy by Antonia Felix has an eye-catching cover which led me to the Amazon page where I read an interesting blurb listing the issues that the novel was based on. Drug abuse in the form of a doctor prescribing drugs for personal gain, corporate medical complicity in falsifying drug testing before release of a drug to the general public, and an out-of-control sexual predator who happens to be a psychiatrist are a few of the problems examined in this work of fiction. This 2014 publication is a work of fiction by an author with ten biographies to her credit so I was looking forward to a good fiction read. It didn’t quite work out that way.
The novel was interesting throughout. It held my attention and I never considered abandoning the story but I was constantly disappointed at the way there seemed to be no transition between chapters; there was no thread that pulled the story together. There are 51 chapters in the novel and I felt many of them could have been published as stand-alone short stories. There would not have been a lot of satisfying conclusions if the work were to be published that way, not all chapters would survive such treatment but at the same time, I felt many times as if I were reading a disjointed collection of stories. There was a surprising ending. I was surprised because I saw no hint at who did it or why. Character development didn’t lead me to suspect that those involved in the surprise incidents at the end would act in the way they did. I found it to be jarring and reinforced my opinion about the lack of a unifying mechanism for the story.
Bo Williams is a detective whose investigation of a body begins the novel. Despite all the illegal activity going on, he makes no meaningful appearances again until the end of the story. Camilla Black is a very important central character to the overall plot. She doesn’t enter the novel until chapter eight, about 20% of the novel. Camilla is initially described as a military medical technician and we initially meet her as she is doing humanitarian work in Peru. This is the most interesting section of the novel which contains well-written descriptions of two medical emergencies she must manage. We find out that she must leave Peru for the US to continue her work for a medical board that investigates doctors gone wrong. For the rest of the novel, the reader will learn of her frustrations in obtaining solid, actionable proof of criminal intent on the part of Clayton Shepherd, the psychiatrist and sexual predator that propels the action in the story. For such an important figure, there is not much character development. His transgressions and crimes are many but they are presented in a serial fashion without much attention paid to motive. Opportunities for financial gain and the thrill of sexual domination are apparent but there is little investigation below these surface motivations.
Child suicide is a horrible thing to contemplate and there are several incidents of this. Children go to Dr. Shepherd to address behavioral problems. Shepherd gives them drugs. After a period of time during which the drugs seemingly work, patient behavior takes a sudden change for the worse and continues in a downward spiral resulting in the death by suicide of the child. In each case, the child was under the care of Dr. Shepherd. The deaths might be the result of the medicine Shepherd prescribed, a medicine which had an undisclosed experimental component mixed by Clayton into the named prescription. Clayton was acting with full knowledge of drug company officials who were trying to take shortcuts through the FDA vetting process. Financial gain for Clayton was the obvious motive but Clayton carried things a step further. During the period of time when the drug was improving a child’s behavior, Clayton was seducing the child’s mother.
Despite the sexual predator element, there is little reliance on overly sexualized language. The book is interesting and well written but as I read it I thought the writing style was more suited to non-fiction. I will read her nonfiction biographies as they become available in Kindle. To date, that is only true of Silent Soul: The Miracles and Mysteries of Audrey Santo.