Foreign Body by Robin Cook

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Foreign Body by Robin Cook

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An interesting look at medical tourism and the effect of negative publicity. Set in India and with colourful locations the book delivers a good story.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 328 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230713512

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Jennifer Hernandez didn't know that her world was about to be turned upside down as she sat in the surgical lounge at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was a fourth year medical student just about to complete an elective in general surgery and only half her mind was on the news report on CNN about Americans travelling to Third World Countries for medical treatments which they couldn't afford at home. The shock came when she heard the name of her beloved grandmother mentioned. Maria Hernandez had died a matter of hours after undergoing hip replacement surgery in New Delhi's Queen Victoria Hospital. Jennifer didn't know that her grandmother had flown to India. Devastated and at a loss to know how her grandmother could have suffered a heart attack she dropped everything and flew to New Delhi.

There's a thoughtful depth to this book as it looks at the situation which medical tourism produces. Provisions for healthcare in the USA are woefully inadequate for those unable to afford health insurance and Maria had devoted all her income to look after her three grandchildren and their feckless father. The only way that she could afford the operation was to fly to India. The hospital she uses is as luxurious as a first-class hotel but that's because the Indian government is keen to promote medical tourism and they're prepared to divert money which would have gone to help poorer people in India. The profits don't go back to the government though – they go to businessmen already rich beyond the dreams of most people. Patients and their visitors have to shut their eyes to the slums and garbage which sit cheek-by-jowl with the hospital.

The cultural differences between the two countries are subtly highlighted. Jennifer was an abused child but lived in a society which encouraged her to become independent and to put what had happened behind her. An Indian girl in the same situation feels that she must obey her father and when something is done to help her she feels that shame has been brought on her family. She will do anything to escape from India. Anything at all.

Two of Cook's regular characters – Laurie Montgomerie and Jack Stapleton are brought into the story although the book does centre on Jennifer Hernandez rather than the medical examiners. Cook brings India to life, illuminating the vivid cultural differences: sometimes I could see the colours and smell the squalor. The plot is not the strongest I've read and the dialogue is sometimes very stilted but it was nevertheless an enjoyable read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

We also have a review of Cure by Robin Cook.

For another book which takes a forensic approach to crime, we can recommend The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett. We think you might also like Dust to Dust (Steven Dunbar) by Ken McClure and The Oxford Virus by Adam Kolczynski.

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Buy Foreign Body by Robin Cook at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Foreign Body by Robin Cook at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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