Summary and book reviews of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Beat the Reaper

A Novel

By Josh Bazell

Beat the Reaper
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2009,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2009,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brwna might - just might - be the same person ...

Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours - and somehow beat the reaper.

Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, Beat the Reaper is a debut thriller so utterly original you won't be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won't be able to put it down.

1

So I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me! Naturally there's a gun. He comes up behind me and sticks it into the base of my skull. It's cold, and it actually feels sort of good, in an acupressure kind of way. "Take it easy, Doc," he says.

Which explains that, at least. Even at five in the morning, I'm not the kind of guy you mug. I look like an Easter Island sculpture of a longshoreman. But the fuckhead can see the blue scrub pants under my overcoat, and the ventilated green plastic clogs, so he thinks I've got drugs and money on me. And maybe that I've taken some kind of oath not to kick his fuckhead ass for trying to mug me.

I barely have enough drugs and money to get me through the day. And the only oath I took, as I recall, was to first do no harm. I'm thinking we're past that point.

"Okay," I say, raising my hands.

The rat and the pigeon run away. Chickenshits.

I turn around, which rolls the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. There are many dramatically charged scenes in Beat the Reaper, but the story is also broadly humorous. What was the funniest moment in the novel for you, and why?
  2. Near the end of the novel Pietro Brnwa/Peter Brown's mentor Prof. Marmoset tells him, "Any time you can tell the difference between something you can do something about and something you can't, you should thank God. Particularly if it turns out to be something you can't" (page 304). How effectively does Pietro/Peter "tell the difference" throughout the novel? What do you think he's learned by the story's conclusion?
  3. "As any other American child would, I picked Batman and Charles Bronson in Death Wish as role models" (...
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Reviews

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In between dodging bad guys Brown tries to keep up his hospital rounds and patient care while becoming more and more sleep-deprived and even more "upper" drug dependent. Things become increasingly zany to the point where he notes that, "you may have taken things too far…when you're holding a knife you've just made out of your own shinbone." Oh, yeah. Beat the Reaper is just that gritty. But it is testament to Bazell's skill that he can deliver a message of personal responsibility and accountability while making readers simultaneously cringe and cackle.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times - Matt Ruff

This blend of criminal and medical drama works well, and the back-and-forth between timelines keeps things moving. Bazell has a knack for breathing new life into the most timeworn genre conventions.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

Beat the Reaper is a hypochondriac's nightmare but a reader's dream…After I gulped down the doctor's story, my pulse was racing so fast I didn't know whether to recommend his outrageous first novel or sue for malpractice

Publishers Weekly

The hero's wry narrative voice, coupled with Bazell's artful use of flashbacks to sustain tension and fill in Pietro's past, are a winning combination.

Library Journal

A propulsive, savvy read featuring characters both well shaded and shady, this debut thriller...also offers the garnish du jour in the form of elaborate and funny footnotes. Heartily recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

A wildly funny mashup between genres that makes ER and St. Elsewhere look tame.

Author Blurb Harlan Coben
Fast, fun, furious, fierce... or better yet, stop reading the accolades for Beat the Reaper, open up to page one, and start reading. See you at the cash register.

Author Blurb Michael Connelly
Beat the Reaper is a blast. Josh Bazell blew me away with this story that is as relentless as a bullet

Author Blurb Robert Crais
Beat the Reaper is terrific -- fresh, original, funny, and a dynamite read. Dr. Peter Brown -- aka Pietro Brnwa, aka 'the Bearclaw' -- is my new favorite character.

Reader Reviews
Susan Reiners

Those with Delicate Sensibilities, Beware!
Despite using an f-word as a noun, this book grabbed me harder faster than just about any book I can think of. It was difficult to put down, and at first I would have recommended it to just about anyone, including my German physician daughter-in-law ...   Read More

bridgiebee

Wanting Fast and Furious? Read this one!
This is a very funny, fast paced book. Actually a book for everyone who is looking to be entertained! You won't be able to put it down. Beware, if a lot of cursing and foul language offends you; as there is a lot. I loved this book! Only bad ...   Read More

PDXReader

What a ride!
Beat the Reaper is a fast, furious, fun roller-coaster ride of a book, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Its protagonist was unique, entertaining, and three-dimensional. I kept waiting for the plot to take some predictable turn, but it never did; I was...   Read More

Carol K.

Unique Debut
Beat the Reaper is an unique read. Read it for the quirky characters. Read it for its dark humor. Read it because it's one heck of a thriller. Read it for the history, or for the medicine. Read it before it's turned into a bad movie. Read it for the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The United Partisan Organization
In Beat the Reaper the fictional Peter Brown/Pietro Brnwa recounts the story of how his grandparents met in the winter of 1943 when they joined the Jewish resistance movement in Poland, hiding out in the Bialowieza Forest. According to Brnwa family legend the young couple (they were both fifteen at the time) were duped into going back to Krakow in order to save her brother from the Nazis. It was a ruse and they were sold into Auschwitz. They survived because both were sent to work in the manufacturing part of the famed death camp. In one of the more poignant passages of the book Brown tells about when, as an adult, he made a trip to Poland to seek out the man who had betrayed his ...

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