Review: Side Effects by Michael Palmer

In a Boston hospital two women, seemingly unconnected, are discovered to have died from the same condition, one no one has seen before. Pathologist Kate Bennett is already intrigued by the case but when her friend is admitted to the hospital with some of the same symptoms that the two women presented with prior to their deaths she becomes determined to uncover the problem. Of course there are shady forces, some close to home, who are just as determined that she will not find out the truth and thus begins the ride.

The overall story arc of Side Effects is not much of a shock: big, unethical pharmaceutical company versus a caring doctor who puts patient safety above all other considerations. But within that familiar framework there were more than enough threads to unravel and characters whose level of evilness was unclear to keep me happy, though I’ll admit to being a bit of a sucker for a medical thriller. Written in 1984 this one is pleasantly unencumbered by the today’s obsession with bio terrorism and harks back to a gentler time when good old fashioned greed was the motivator of choice for most criminals/businessmen. Throw in a possible connection to Nazi experimenters and you have yourself a roller coaster of a story and although the ending was dramatic it didn’t go over the top as so many in this genre tend to do which is another point in its favour.

Kate Bennett is a good choice for a central character, nice enough that you want her to prevail but with human enough foibles to worry that she might not. She struggles with a husband who can’t quite bring himself to think of her career is as important as his own and the portrayal of her conflict with career over personal life offers an interesting slant. Her husband Gerard is fairly annoying, at least from a woman’s perspective, though credible and there’s a bit more depth to him than you might expect to find in a thriller of this type.

This is an above average entrant in this genre, playing nicely to the fears many people have when faced with incomprehensible medical emergencies and also reaching out to the conspiracy theorist within us all. It’s fast, entertaining and recommended.

What about the audio book?

I’ve no idea what the percentages actually are but it feels like far more audio books are narrated by men than women so it’s nice to hear a female voice telling a story for a change and Angela Dawe does an excellent job with both male and female characters.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 3.5/5
Narrator Angela Dawe
Publisher Brilliance Audio [this edition 2009, originally 1984]
ISBN N/A (audio download)
Length 9 hours 46 minutes (Unabridged)
Format download from
Source My collection

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3 Responses to Review: Side Effects by Michael Palmer

  1. Bernadette – Thanks for this review, as ever. I like Michael Palmer’s work; I think he generally writes a fine medical thriller. So I was happy to see that you chose one of his :-). And I agree that far, far too many medical thrillers do have those over-the-top endings that can ruin a story – at least for me. Good to know you didn’t think this one had that particular fault.


  2. kathy durkin says:

    Time was that I read medical thrillers a lot and Michael Palmer was an author I sought.
    Glad to hear that this book had good old-fashioned murder and greed, no bioterrorism or international intrigues, spies, war, etc. Will put this on my list although I have to check which books by Palmer I read years ago.


  3. I love mystery/thrillers, though I’m not partial to medical thrillers. I have read some of Palmer’s books and recognize what you say here–the interest of the simplicity. Thanks for the review! I don’t listen to many audio books, but of those I have heard, there has been a mix of male and female voices.



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