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Liz Webb: My top 5 medical thrillers

Liz Webb: My top 5 medical thrillers

After being found lifeless in the freezing Scottish sea, a woman’s husband is successfully ‘brought back from the dead’, but she looks into his eyes and knows that something is very wrong… My new novel THE SAVED explores ‘hypothermic cardiac arrest’, in which, if you have a heart attack when extremely cold, you can be resuscitated up to six hours later.

Here are 5 other brilliant medical thrillers I’ve enjoyed:

THE SURGEON by Tess Gerritsen, 2001

Someone is killing women with grotesque surgical precision in Boston again. But how is that possible, when the original killer was shot two years ago? Gerritsen is a prolific master of the medical thriller genre and a doctor. This book is graphic, but not gratuitous. It’s full of precisely-described, career-informed, plot-integral, medical gore, provoking visceral horror. Within a propulsive plot, Gerritsen examines rape and power, along with gender politics in the police. Unputdownable.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE by Holly Seddon, 2016

Amy has been in a coma for fifteen years, but little do her doctors realise that she can hear and is trying to make sense of what’s happened to her. Enter messed-up journalist Alex, who is writing about the coma ward and by trying to piece together Amy’s story, endangers herself. This was one of the novels that got me into writing this genre. The two protagonists are complex relatable voices, both struggling to make sense of their lives, while caught up in an ever-twisting plot. Riveting.

MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim, 2019

Two Korean immigrants in the US have a ‘miracle submarine’, a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for ‘dives’, to supposedly treat autism and infertility. When the sub explodes, killing two, a trial uncovers revelations which smash the small community apart. This is a medical thriller and courtroom drama which is brilliantly written, highly original, tense and hugely thought-provoking. How is it a debut, it’s so good?

DO NO HARM by Jack Jordan, 2022

Heart surgeon Anna Jones has taken the Hippocratic oath to ‘Do No Harm’, but then her son Zack is kidnapped and she’s warned that she must kill the prominent MP on her operating table if she ever wants to see her son again. Jordan is a master of the high-stakes dilemma and this thriller grabs you by the throat from the get go. It follows the three linked stories of Anna’s dilemma, a nurse who sees what Anna does and a policewoman who doesn’t believe Anna’s story. A total page-turner.

UNNATURAL DEATH by Patricia Cornwell, 2023

Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is flown to an isolated North Virginian wilderness to examine the savaged remains of two campers who were on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Why the extreme brutality? And why is there a bigfoot sized footprint at the scene? Kay Scarpetta thrillers are legendary in this genre and this 27th one is just out. Cornwell has such a detailed knowledge and wonderfully assured style which sets the scene, teases out the tension, and perfectly times the unpredictable twists and turns. Excellent.

The Saved by Liz Webb is published in hardback at £16.99 by Allison & Busby on the 25th January 2024

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