Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen - a medical thriller done right!

Jul 6, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fascinating story kept me hooked.

Cons:Some parts predictable, some extra subplots that weren't necessary.

The Bottom Line: I love medical thrillers, as long as they're done right. This one, thankfully, was.


Tess Gerritsen's Bloodstream is a medical thriller. This is one of my favorite genres, when it's done right. To me, doing it right means two things. 1) There has to be something "new", something that's not completely predictable. 2) There has to be at least some basis in reality for the story to work for me. I don't want to read a huge book about a medical phenomenon only to discover at the end that the illness was caused by an unhappy spirit, or an old lady's curse from a thousand years ago. To me, a medical thriller has be at least somewhat believable in order to be truly frightening and therefore, truly entertaining.

The plot is one that's been done before. A single woman moves with her teenage son to a small town, in hopes of starting life anew after the death of her husband. The son (Noah) had been getting into some trouble back home, and Mom (Claire) hopes that moving to Tranquility, Maine will be just what she and Noah need to get a fresh start.

But the town has other ideas. They are suspicious of outsiders and keep their distance from Claire and Noah. Claire is a physician but the townsfolk don't want to go to her with their illnesses. Furthermore, Noah hates his new life, and is acting just as poorly as he did in his hometown.

Things go from bad to worse when some of the town's teenage boys start behaving uncharacteristically aggressively. Kids are killing other kids, and even their own families! Why are the kids suddenly acting this way??

Claire is the only person in the whole town who seems to be interested in finding out the real answer. Her research will lead her to discover that this isn't the first time the town has seen this bizarre phenomenon. It seems that it happened about 100 years ago, and then again about 50 years ago. So every 50 years or so, something happens to make the teenagers go berserk and start killing people. Yet, the town seems to prefer to keep its secrets hidden, than to figure out what's really happening, and fix it.

The book was a fast-read that definitely kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. There are a lot of false leads that waste some of our (and Claire's) time but eventually we start getting some real answers. The story gets a bit complex, but it's worth it. In fact, by the time the whole story is revealed, I was totally hooked. There's a lot of medical jargon, but not so much that it will turn off the average reader. In fact, I found the medical stuff fascinating.

Be aware that there is some "icky" stuff in here. One or two cringe-worthy paragraphs dealing with organisms that find their way into the human body. Icky for sure, but not too gory.

What I didn't like was the overuse of subplots. There were far too many, and most really didn't add to the main story. They just made this long book even longer. Especially the "obligatory romance" between Claire and the town's police Chief. I hate that nearly every book I read with a single female main character feels the need to pair her up. In this case, it was predictable from the first minute we meet the Chief, and it added nothing to the story.

And I really hated the overuse of "small town mentality". I just didn't buy the fact that no one else cared enough about this problem to really help Claire. In fact, several people go out of their way to hinder her research. I mean, really, whole families are dying at the hands of these kids, yet people would rather look the other way? I simply didn't buy that aspect of the story.

So how did Bloodstream do on my two requirements? It succeeded to some extent on the first one. While much of the book is predictable, there are still enough surprises to keep me happy. On the second requirement, the book completely succeeds. As horrible as the final story ends up being, the real scary thing is that it could happen.

I recommend this book for lovers of medical thrillers.


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