Deadly Harvest  by Leonard Goldberg, MD, a Dutton hardcover, Penguin paperback, New York, 1997, 342 pages, $24

Review by Del Meyer, MD

With Deadly Harvest, Dr Leonard Goldberg, a Clinical Professor at UCLA, gives us the fourth in a series of medical thrillers.  DEADLY CARE, his third, was just published last year and recently has come out in paperback and audiobook form.  His first two, Deadly Medicine and A Deadly Practice are still available in Signet paperbacks.  Already he’s being compared to colleagues Robin Cook and Michael Crichton.

In Deadly Care, Goldberg’s protagonist, Joanna Blalock, a forensic pathologist, encountered a murder victim without a face or fingers for identification.  It made for an intriguing medical thriller. Deadly Harvest also features Dr Blalock and her ex-boyfriend, Los Angeles Homicide Detective Jake Sinclair.  This time the two become entangled in organ harvesting, a popular theme recently in the genre.  Some procurers always seem to have the right donor cross-match; if you smell greed in murder, you’re dead on.

With her younger sister, Kate, an archeologist, dying from an ebola-like virus, stressed-out forensic pathologist Blalock is asked to give her professional assistance regarding the murder of wealthy industrialist William Arthur Warren.  As she and Detective Sinclair discover, Warren’s newly implanted liver is diseased.  The skeleton of another murder victim is discovered near Donors International, the organization that supplied the diseased liver for Warren, and Blalock becomes suspicious.  At about the same time, her gravely ill sister needs a liver transplant.  Desperate to find a new liver for her, Blalock employs the services of – you guessed it – Donors International.  Soon she discovers that the remarkable success of Donors International is due primarily to questionable and unethical medical and business practices.

What transpires is a semi-predictable story centered on Blalock’s encounters with the corrupt corporation and the killers.   But Goldberg’s throws in some astute observations about physician collusion with crime.  The same physician essential to the workings of corruption becomes the greatest liability because he knows too much.  The enormous criminal organization behind the operation goes on living; it’s the doctor, finally, who’s harvested.

Goldberg’s medical knowledge is reliable and his attention to detail impeccable.  The characters are reasonably well developed and the plot, albeit predictable with a variation on a current much-used theme, nevertheless keeps the reader involved.  Unless you are a connoisseur of medical thrillers, I think you would appreciate how one of our colleagues considers threats against patients and our profession.