Leonard Goldberg's Patient One

Leonard Goldberg is eminently qualified to write Patient One, a riveting medical thriller. A consulting doctor and Clinical Professor of Medicine with UCLA, he is board certified in internal medicine, hematology and rheumatology. According to his website, Goldberg is also “a highly sought-after expert witness in medical malpractice trials.” This author of over a hundred peer-reviewed articles has also published a series of medical thrillers starring Joanna Blalock. His novels have sold over a million copies globally, been translated into 12 languages, and were featured as People magazine’s “Page Turner of the Week.”

Patient One is a stand-alone thriller. After you read the first sentence – “They had no idea they were being poisoned,” – you will be powerless to put this novel down. The “they” referred to is no less than the U. S. President and 250 distinguished guests who are at a state dinner to celebrate a new economic pact with Russia. Patient One is a novel involving Chechen terrorists, hostages, an atomic bomb, fighter pilots, and a rare and life-threatening blood disorder that threatens President John Merrill’s life.

Balancing fiction writing and a medical career is no easy task; Goldberg, however, relishes the challenge. “There’s a wonderful quote that is attributed to Anton Chekhov, who was also both a writer and physician,” Goldberg told Publishers Weekly: “‘Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other.’ I often remember that. It keeps me busy and I like that.”

Goldberg even finds similarities between his two careers, noting that “the structure for a scientific article, which presents a dilemma and then a methodology for researching and solving the problem, is similar to the structure of a medical thriller.” What makes his writing so effective is the medical expertise he brings to it. Goldberg wisely stays within the boundaries of what he knows so well and provides readers with an insider’s view of the medical world.

Anyone who is looking for a character-driven novel will not find it in Patient One. Nuance and complexity of character are notably absent from the novel. And the conventional doctor-nurse romance is fairly unimaginative.

But what Goldberg does well is deliver heart-pumping action. The entire novel takes place within an exciting seven-hour time period, a change from Goldberg’s previous writing. In my last nine novels,” he explains,
the protagonist takes a Sherlock Holmes approach to solving murders, and they take place over a series of days or weeks. This novel takes place in the course of seven hours, so it moves with the speed of light. It never stops because obviously a lot of things have to happen in seven hours.
Kirkus Reviews (2012) claims: “This fast-paced departure from his Joanna Blalock series (Lethal Measures, 2000, etc.) provides all the excitement, intrigue and danger you could ask for.” Readers who enjoy thrilling, plot-driven novels will agree that Patient One does not disappoint.

Goldberg, Leonard. Patient One. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2012.

“Patient One.” Kirkus Reviews. March 15, 2012.