Doctor Lucifer, a Medical Thriller From One of The Year’s Most Exciting New Voices

The Bottom Line: Doctor Lucifer potently blends the dynamics of a medical thriller with the sheer hysteria involved in a brutal cyberattack. Written with the authority of an insider, Lee is one of the year’s most exciting new voices. 

Minutes before Anaheim internist Dr. Mark Lin goes about his usual morning rounds, he receives an alarming text message from the hospital administrator warning of debilitating spam attacks. Soon after, he comes across a frightening headline: Lucifer’s Worm Cripples Computer Systems Worldwide. He absorbs the information with dispassionate interest, never dreaming that it might affect him personally.

What follows is a visceral, breathless series of medical emergencies that tests Dr. Lin’s skill, knowledge and sanity. One of his patients dies suddenly – defying Dr. Lin’s attempts to resuscitate him. Elsewhere in the hospital, two previously stable patients take sudden turns for the worse. His analysis finds critical dosage errors, and in one case, a patient who had been given a medicine she was allergic to. Despite the fact that networked technologies are a part of modern medicine, the idea that these errors might be due to Lucifer’s Worm only crosses his mind later.

But as consequences of the cyber pandemic continue to stack up at the hospital, he realizes that what he’s experiencing may not be simply part of a massive blunt-force attack. It is – pardon the pun – a surgical strike. As the first text message targeting him makes clear, this is decidedly personal. 

Author Anthony Lee, a med school graduate who spent 15 years analyzing new medical tests and treatments, writes with the authority of a healthcare insider. Written from Dr. Lin’s point of view, Lee’s depiction of the required context-shifting as the doctor switches from patient to patient feels not only real but also overwhelming. So too does the hellacious mental toll of his daily grind, made all the harder by these relentless and malevolent attacks. But what really hits home is the emotional toll of even the prospect that lethal medical errors may have somehow been his fault.

One of the book’s high points is a plot device ripped straight out of real-life serial killer cases: a taunting message from the perpetrator. Examination of the poem, which is in fact a riddle, becomes one of Lee’s most enthralling story hooks. From cover-to-cover, Doctor Lucifer is a nonstop vehicle for suspense. More than that, it explores how vulnerable the state of the healthcare system is to malicious actors.

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