In the prologue we meet protagonist Dr. Angela Brennan as she digs up the gun she’d buried near her home. We then learn, “the pistol was as pristine as the day she’d purchased it. First, do no harm—a line from the Hippocratic oath she’d taken when she’d earned her medical degree from Dartmouth. And she wouldn’t do any harm. Not any more harm than she’d already done. Not just yet.”
Angela takes a break from her hectic hospital routine as a cardiac surgeon to enjoy a rare day away at the beach with her husband, son, and daughter. It’s a perfect day. The kind you want to press into your memory scrapbook and preserve forever. The perfect day turns into the worst day of her life on the drive home. Her world is shattered when a truck slams into their car, instantly killing her husband and son. Angela turns her focus to willing her daughter to survive. When her daughter dies from injuries sustained in the crash, Angela’s will to live also dies.
Then Angela gets an anonymous note suggesting her daughter’s death could have been prevented. This information gives her a new purpose in life. Determined to know the truth, she takes on healthcare power brokers, putting her reputation and hospital privileges in jeopardy. However, she doesn’t fight the system on her own—she’s accompanied by spiritual beings only she can see and hear.
Splaine introduces readers to a behind-the-scenes tour of health care policies, power struggles, and politics that occasionally cost helpless patients their lives. Angela deals with desperate circumstances with dogged determination to follow the clues about what really caused her daughter’s death, and works through her own crushing grief to give hope to others.
The story includes a few plot twists that keep the pages turning. Splaine does a masterful job of introducing us to characters who convincingly prove first impressions are not always accurate: People Angela thought were her friends betray her, while others she seldom thought about at all befriend her. Splaine also introduces spiritual beings in a way that make their appearances seem plausible.
Readers who enjoy trying to solve a mystery will enjoy this story, as will those curious about hospital culture beyond a patient’s room.