Cover image for Lie still : a novel of suspense
Lie still : a novel of suspense
Farris, David, 1954-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2003]

Physical Description:
372 pages ; 24 cm
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A prominent physician debuts as a gifted storyteller in Lie Still, a dazzlingly suspenseful and compulsively readable trip through the dark underbelly of the OR -- where reputations, careers, and lives are on the line.

In a sleepy, small-town Arizona hospital, a thirteen-year-old boy lies in a coma after inexplicably suffering a cardiac arrest. His doctors are perplexed. Although emotionally disturbed Henry Rojelio was a frequent visitor to the emergency room -- often for bouts of asthma, but usually just for attention -- no one ever anticipated a battle with death.

Surgical resident Malcolm Ishmail began his medical career months before at a busy Phoenix hospital -- a far cry from the small ER deep in the silent heart of the desert, where Henry Rojelio lies. There, Malcolm fell into a secret, exhausting affair with one of his professors, Dr. Mimi Lyle, a beautiful, charismatic brain surgeon who had subtle difficulties in the operating room. In a moment of weakness "Dreamy Mimi" confessed to him her failings as a neurosurgeon; Malcolm reported her to his superiors . . . and promptly lost his job.

Now, miles away from Phoenix, Dr. Ishmail struggles to save his young asthmatic patient's life and his future as a surgeon. And with little time and few clues to the cause of Henry Rojelio's sudden collapse, the impressionable doctor wonders whether his former lover may have exacted a disturbing revenge.Rich in medical detail and written with stylish, razor-sharp action and dialogue, Lie Still is a gripping, emotional drama of human failings and devastating consequences that marks the debut of a remarkable new voice.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This first novel works both as medical suspense and as a harrowing collection of medical war stories. Farris, a practicing anesthesiologist specializing in infant and child heart surgery, brings the depth of his experience to bear on a case involving a troubled teen who suffers an inexplicable cardiac arrest. His hero, Dr. Ishmail, narrates the story, describing how his handling of the teen's case shipwrecked his life, moving him from an up-and-coming surgery resident to an ER weekend itinerant in a tiny Nebraska town. The mystery of the teen's death hangs over him years later, and his attempts to understand it lead him into a frightening understanding of the ways in which doctors can use their power to destroy. The plotting is often hard to follow, as Farris gets caught up in medical descriptions and case histories, but the character of Ishmail and his obsession with the past are especially compelling. A promising debut for medical thriller fans. --Connie Fletcher Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pediatric anesthesiologist Farris's debut is as sharp as a scalpel, a gripping, well-crafted novel of medical suspense offering more than the adrenaline rush of constant emergency room disasters. Surgery resident Malcolm Ishmail is working the ER in Glory, Ariz., when his 13-year-old asthma patient, Henry Rojelio, goes from amiably talkative one minute to comatose the next. Seven years later, Malcolm, now an "itinerant physician" working in a string of Nebraska cow towns, reflects on his disgrace. His affair with the attending physician in Glory, brain surgeon Mimi Lyle ("she was tall, classically beautiful, and, from my testosterone-hardened viewpoint, undeniably sexy"), was a serious mistake. Despite rumors of incompetence, Mimi is considered at the top of her profession, so Malcolm watches with mounting horror as she botches one operation after another. After reporting her to hospital authorities, he finds himself ousted from his residency, relegated to a succession of smalltown emergency rooms in the hinterlands and eventually threatened with criminal prosecution. Slowly he begins to piece together the succession of events that have landed him in purgatory, only to realize that the vengeance-seeking Mimi lies at the center of the mystery. But there's still one more lesson to be learned: Mimi's better with a pistol than she is with a scalpel. (Nov.) Forecast: With its wealth of medical information, in-depth characterization and femme fatale villain, Lie Still should appeal to suspense fans everywhere. The cover sports an appreciative blurb by Scott Turow, and while Farris's debut may not be medicine's answer to Presumed Innocent, it moves beyond Robin Cook territory and is both substantial and original. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Lie Still A Novel of Suspense Chapter One Henry Rojelio, Day One All she said was, "Doctor, he's turning blue." She spoke the words softly, quickly into my ear. I turned to look, expecting a grin. All I got, though, was backside, hurrying away to the exam bay, like a game of tag. I've relived it a million times. It wasn't a game, it was a play. A stage whisper blurted by a vanishing actress. She knew her audience. She told me the patient was cyanotic -- cyan-colored, like ice -- but the delivery had its own message: I may be new here, but I'm not panicked. I've done this before; I'll do it again. On TV she would have stood up straight and tall in the center of the ER and ceremonially announced just short of a shout, "Doctor! The patient is acro-cyanotic. Come stat!" Writers love the word stat. Clinicians only use it when they're pissed off. Stat is Latin for "hurry the fuck up." Anyway, that's how it started. Henry, Day One . She got exactly the response she wanted. On cue, I thought, Bullshit . I probably snorted. Robin Benoit was a nurse. I knew well the common doctorly chauvinisms about nurses as diagnosticians. In all the retelling, the reliving of the opening -- for the other doctors, the family, my closest friends, my parents, the police, the lawyers, and over and over for myself -- I have always admitted that I hesitated, though only for a few seconds. Don't misunderstand me. I would never let a patient lie there starving for oxygen for even a millisecond, no matter whose ego is on the line. But I did not believe thirteen-year-old Henry Rojelio really could have been blue. Not ten minutes earlier he and I had had been talking about baseball and his crooked penis. He was not that physically sick. Nor did my hesitation make one whit of difference. The record will support that. Five seconds was not long enough to have mattered. But the issue has never laid down and died. Professional machismo looks lousy in the hindsight of self-recrimination. I was on the phone. I ended the call, abruptly, then sat there with a vacuum-tube stare long enough to show that I wasn't impressed and certainly wasn't panicked either. This from the rules I'd learned early on: Never run. For punctuation I took a last gulp from my can of Squirt and made a point of finding my stethoscope. "Where's my fucking stethoscope?" I remember saying out loud. I was annoyed. Whether the patient's cyanosis is real or imaginary, it's a pain in the ass for all concerned. I patted all my pockets, then found it looped over my shoulders. All this may have added five seconds to the downtime. That could not have been critical. I sauntered after Robin. I didn't -- I wouldn't -- believe her. Five seconds. Though new to me, Henry had been a regular in the Glory ER. His chart -- which I had dutifully read over -- was into its fourth volume. At his worst he was only a moderately bad asthmatic. When I listened to his chest on admission he was not all that tight, and he was getting over-aggressive treatment as it was. True "blue" was not possible. I pushed open the door, smiling, stupidly optimistic that a doctorly presence would right the misdiagnosis and end the scurrilous rumors. It had worked before. He was, however, lying oddly flat and straight, unconscious and limp, and by-God blue all right. And starting to turn a mottled gray, which is worse than blue, because it's what comes next. I thought to turn around, not to run away, but to find the Resident-Who-Knew-What-to-Do. For almost all of my time tending patients, there had been somebody at least one year further along in training standing behind me, sheltering both the patient and me. Certainly I'd signed on in little Glory to be The Doctor, but I had hoped to avoid conflagration at least until the locals had come to trust me. I knew I was a good doctor despite anything they might have heard. They'd told me it was a quiet little ER in a quiet little town, and no one would bother me. Turns out, though, sickness is pervasive. I was, I confess, paralyzed. Though not as long as they tried to imply. A second can seem so long. Panic, however ephemeral, looks bad. All my brain parts were going off at once, chattering and bickering. "Hurry, think, hurry, think, hurry, think." Robin, bless her heart, spoke, coaching me. "Is he breathing?" I put the back of my hand an inch under the boy's nose, hoping for a tiny current or hint of warmth. Nothing was moving. Of course he wasn't breathing; that's why he was so goddamn blue. He was, though, a known malingerer. It said so in his chart. Maybe he was holding his breath. I'd heard mothers swear their children would hold their breath long enough to turn blue, but I'd never seen it. I didn't really believe it possible, but at that moment I was willing to believe in the Tooth Fairy if she could help. I dug a knuckle into his sternum, hard, and twisted it. It's one of the accepted bits of medical sadism we use to weed out fakers and wake up drunks. Henry, however, lay still. He was dying or maybe already dead. He needed me to breathe for him. I looked for the bag. Every ER room in the world is supposed to have a breathing bag and mask in plain sight, ready to go, no glass to break in case of emergency. It's usually hanging on the wall by the oxygen outlet ... Lie Still A Novel of Suspense . Copyright © by David Farris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Lie Still: A Novel of Suspense by David Farris All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.