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‘Overdose’ is a recognizable thriller

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It’s a daunting task to weave reality into fiction, but in Dr. Rada Jones’ debut thriller, “Overdose,” the author does just that. She sets the scene for her protagonist, Dr. Emma Steele, in a location that sounds awfully familiar: a rural lakeside town with an emergency department that is on the frontline of an opioid epidemic. The hospital is struggling to make ends meet and Dr. Steele’s department has been “outsourced” to a company from out of town that arguably has no investment in the community or the doctors who work there.

The outsourcing creates a new opportunity for Dr. Steele though, and she becomes director of the emergency department in part because the last director is murdered. She is quickly reminded about what she has known all along: juggling family and work ambitions is next to impossible, even more so when her teenage daughter has multiple crises of her own. Soon the chaos at home mixes with the emergencies at work, and it’s clear that if Dr. Steele isn’t careful, she’ll be the next one dead.

The author does a fine job building the character and complexity of Dr. Steele, and the scenes in the emergency department are impeccable. The dialogue is as fast as the action, and the medical descriptions are precise and believable. Quickly, even someone familiar with the actual hospital where Dr. Jones worked will recognize that Dr. Steele must inhabit a different one, and the reader gets lost in the story with the clean writing and suspenseful plot.

The story could be longer, certainly, but the author has written a solid, tight thriller that sets the stage for a sequel; and cleanliness is more important than giving into the temptation of dragging out a mystery just for the sake of a higher word count. There are a few point of view shifts that don’t feel as authentic as when the author stays close to Dr. Steele, and the name of one of the characters, Dick Umber, is a bit on the nose considering his behavior. In all, though, “Overdose” is a solid debut. The reader is left satisfied but unsettled, the mark of a thriller that has absorbed attention. The loose ends aren’t tied up so neatly that authenticity is sacrificed, and there is plenty of room for Dr. Steele to return and face a new crisis.

For people who love medical dramas, they have a new hero in emergency department. My recommendation is to grab this book for a tantalizing first read from an author bound to produce many more.

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