Saturday, September 22, 2007

Brain Dead by Eileen Dreyer

Brain Dead by Eileen Dreyer
Harper Collins, 1997
Mystery; 406 pgs

Completed: 09/20/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: The angel of death came at dawn.

Reason for Reading: This is my 3rd selection for the Medical Mystery Madness Challenge.

From the Publisher: When trauma nurse Timmie Parker moves from California to her old hometown in Missouri, it seems her hope for turning her life around will finally be realized: She is miles away from her bitter ex-husband, respected and admired by her new coworkers and renewing her ties to her family. Then the bodies begin to pile up.

Elderly patients from Restcrest, a highly regarded and innovative senior citizen care facility attached to the hospital, keep dying in her ER, and Timmie wants to know why. But when she tries to search for answers, she gets caught in a tangled mystery that seems dangerously linked to her new friends and to the welfare of her own father. She finds an ally in Daniel Murphy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who offers her much-needed support. Together, they embark on an investigation that promises to send Murphy soaring to the top of his profession, but which also threatens to suck Timmie into a deadly conspiracy that could cost her not only her job and peace of mind, but also her life.

Comments: After reading Lynne's thoughts of Brain Dead, I was a little worried. I reminded myself that I enjoy books like this in general and had heard good things about other books by the author. Fortunately, my experience with Brain Dead was more favorable than hers had been.

I was not sure how I felt about Timmie at first, but she grew on me fairly quickly. Timmie is definitely the rebel, a woman with her own mind and who jumps into the fray readily. She thinks fast on her feet and can handle just about any crisis that comes her way. Professionally, she’s the best at what she does. She is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, working best when under pressure. Her personal life, on the other hand, is not so well nurtured and cared for—and it shows. She is the mother of a 6-year-old daughter who desperately needs her mother’s attention after her parents’ bitter divorce; the ex-wife of a drug addict who continues to harass her; and the daughter of man suffering from stage 2 Alzheimer’s, a man she is struggling to care for on her own without much success.

I liked Daniel Murphy, Timmie’s sidekick, from the start. He is smart and laid back. Although at first reluctant to get involved, he knows he would not be able to help it. Like with Timmie, getting to the truth is in his blood. He is not a perfect leading man, by any stretch. Like the best of characters, he is flawed, having moved to Missouri to get away from personal demons of his own. Daniel and Timmie balance each other out well.

Just when it seemed that there was too much going on at once, the author begins to bring the story together, fitting all the pieces together and tying up loose ends. It came as no surprise, as I suspected early on what the ultimate motive was. The who did evade me for a while, but I had that figured out long before Murphy and Timmie did.

The novel was full of other interesting characters as well, some better developed than others. Most seemed typecast and two-dimensional. This is definitely a plot driven novel, as most mystery novels tend to be. It picks up speed rapidly near the end although was relatively suspenseful throughout. There was always something going on and it’s a wonder Timmie was able to hold it together for as long as she did. Overall, I enjoyed Brain Dead. It is probably not a book that I will remember a year from now; but in the moment, it was well worth the time spent reading it.

Favorite Part: There is a moment in the book when Timmie lets down her guard with Murphy and shares with him the turmoil she’s been feeling and keeping inside for so long. Her father, so loved by everyone in the community, had a darker side. She struggled with warring emotions: loving him on the one hand and hating him on the other. Although it’s obvious how she feels right from the start of the book, she never fully admits it to anyone until her talk with Murphy. Eileen Dreyer captured the pain and anguish Timmie felt perfectly in that moment.

For information about the author and her books, visit Eileen Dreyer's website.

Miscellaneous: I am struggling with what to read next. I have two review books I need to read, but the book that is calling my name the loudest right this moment is not either one of those two. I hate it when this happens.


  1. Hi Literary Feline! I haven't yet attempted a Dreyer book. I'm not really convinced that I should. ???

  2. Great review!! I haven't heard of Dreyer before, but it sounds like good, old-fashioned braincandy!!

  3. I like Stephanie's description of "braincandy" - which I sometimes crave. Sounds suspenseful!

  4. This sounds interesting, and I usually don't read medical thrillers.

    I'm not sure I'd say that most mysteries tend to be plot-driven, at least not these days. While the plot is incredibly important in that it needs to hold together and be plausible, I find a lot of mysteries written today put character and plot on equal ground. Laura Lippman is a good example. Her series and standalones are incredible. Ian Rankin's Rebus series is another example. And newer authors like Sean Doolittle, Megan Abbott and Craig Johnson create characters that are unforgettable but keep the story moving.

  5. Joy - It's up to you. If you enjoy medical thrillers, you might enjoy this one. I did like it overall and plan to read more by the author down the road. I've heard her later books are even better.

    Stephanie - That's a very good description of a book like this--it is brain candy. :-) Just what the doctor ordered!

    Jenclair - I like her description too. :-) It was suspenseful and there was always something going on. I really felt for Timmie and all she had to deal with. I probably would have curled up in a ball and hid in the closet. Haha

    Karen - There has definitely been a shift, I agree. Dreyer's book, Brain Dead, was published 10 years ago and it did feel somewhat dated (and not just because of the Ross Perot joke). More and more of the modern mysteries are focusing more on character, which is great for a reader like me who places high value on characterization. I still think, however, that plot has the edge over character in a mystery more often than not, even if it's only by a fraction of a margin. The lines are definitely blurring though.

  6. I had a lot of fun with the Medical Mystery Challenge and plan on reading a lot more of Tess Gerritsen. It was the first time I had read any of her work. That's the best thing I've found with challenges, I find so many good books to read.

  7. Framed - This has been a fun challenge. I agree. I'm currently reading a Tess Gerritsen novel. :-)


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