Cover image for Mortal judgments
Mortal judgments
Peak, John A.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
345 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Thomas Dunne books."
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Vicki Shea, a San Francisco malpractice lawyer with a medical degree, is a good choice for surgeon Arnold Jones. Jones faces a malpractice suit that could virtually wreck his career. He is accused of having caused the sudden death of a rich and powerful businesswoman. Urged by everyone but Vicki to settle, he refuses. He knows he wasn't at fault, and won't say he was.As Vicki begins work on the case, she finds that someone wants her to stop: a concrete block is dropped on her car on the freeway; there is missing information on the death certificate; both pathologists who look into the case for Vicki die suddenly; and the attempts on Vicki's life escalate.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

After a wealthy patient dies on Arnold Jones' operating table, his insurance company wants to settle right away. Believing he did nothing wrong, Jones seeks physician-lawyer Vicki Shea's aid. The redheaded divorcee takes the case and starts lining up expert witnesses. Then things start going wrong: someone tosses a concrete block through the windshield of Vicki's car while she is driving. One expert pathologist is found dead, with a drug needle still in her right arm, though she was right-handed, and her replacement winds up similarly with his throat cut. When a semi knocks Vicki's Lexus into oncoming traffic, she seeks all the help she can get, including a cop who is one of her ex-lovers. Central to the problem of Jones' operation, it turns out, is a machine that re-infuses the patient's blood. Can it malfunction? Peak tells a good, lively story, handles conversation beautifully, and still packs in such secondary plots as that of Jones' anesthesiologist, who manages affairs with Jones' wife and, eventually, with Vicki. --William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

An overabundance of detail and a formulaic plot hinder Peak's third novel (after Blood Relations), a legal/medical thriller in which a San Francisco orthopedic surgeon is accused of lethal malpractice. The female founder of a lingerie company dies suddenly while undergoing spinal surgery under the care of Dr. Arnold Jones. Jones turns to Vicki Shea, a former M.D. turned malpractice attorney, to handle the trial, but despite an overwhelming amount of technical evidence that Jones acted both competently and ethically, the surgeon faces a huge financial settlement that threatens his medical career. Using an array of medical experts to examine the forensic evidence, Shea slowly uncovers some damning details about the sex life of the drug-addicted victim, as well as about the operation of the blood machine that may have caused the sudden, massive bleed during the operation. That information leads to the murder of two pathologists who supply their talents to the case, and divorced heroine Shea herself becomes a target for assassins. Unfortunately, Peak focuses so much on the medical and legal details that the narrative never gathers much momentum in the early chapters, although Shea, shouldering her own emotional needs, remains an engaging and often charming protagonist. While the plot eventually gets going at a more sprightly pace, Peak fails to capitalize on the array of interesting possibilities offered by the purported failure of the blood machine. Though he explores some interesting moral quandaries here, the resolution is a disappointment. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved