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Saving Meghan

Review

Saving Meghan

Daniel Palmer made a name for himself with several critically acclaimed suspense novels. His next endeavor was even more satisfying --- continuing the legacy of his father, the late, great Michael Palmer, by co-authoring unfinished ideas. Now, writing under the moniker of D.J. Palmer, he takes the spirit of Michael's great medical thrillers and turns it on its ear with a very modern-day spin.

SAVING MEGHAN was inspired by the case of a 15-year-old girl named Justina Pelletier, a precedent-setting affair in which Boston Children's Hospital was accused by Justina's family of medical kidnapping. The story moves chapter by chapter to different characters who are central to the plot, and the opportunity to get multiple perspectives on everything that is going on is essential for readers.

The book begins with Becky Gerard demanding to be let off of a flight that has not yet taken off after learning that her 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, is heading back to the hospital after yet another medical issue. The problem with Meghan is that she has been in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals for the past several years suffering from a number of ailments that are close to debilitating her permanently. However, up to this point, there have been no clear medical reasons to support any of the claims that are being made about the teen’s declining health.

"SAVING MEGHAN is far more than just a medical thriller, and D.J. Palmer elevates matters to another level. It is never predictable, and the joy comes from watching your allegiance --- and suspicions --- jump from character to character in an effort to get to the bottom of things."

There is a father in the picture, Carl, but to say that he has taken a backseat to his daughter’s alleged health issues would be an understatement. During these years searching for the source of Meghan's problems, Becky has done a ton of research and seems to chase one potential medical cause after another. She has a hard time understanding how cavalier Carl is behaving, especially when they lost a child together years earlier.

The answer to Becky's prayers could turn out to be a specialist, Zachary Fisher, the first doctor who may actually support the latest medical condition that she believes Meghan is suffering from --- mitochondrial disease. The problem is that Dr. Fisher's own department and hospital, White Memorial in Boston, do not concur with this diagnosis. The hospital's medical board is convinced that it is either a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy or a deep psychological issue within Meghan that is perpetuating the need for her to feel very, very sick.

For those unfamiliar with Munchausen, the best example I can provide is from The Sixth Sense, in which a deceased teen girl is able to get a message through the psychic young boy that provides evidence that her own mother was poisoning her --- unwittingly behind the backs of both her father and the doctors who tried to make sense out of her sudden serious illness. Getting back to SAVING MEGHAN, the main voice from White Memorial is Dr. Amanda Nash, who is the head of GI. She so strongly believes that there is nothing medically wrong with Meghan that she gets the support of the Department of Children and Families and essentially takes full control over the girl and her well-being.

Things take a quick legal turn as Becky and Carl get representation to fight White Memorial in order to get their daughter back. Meghan is now being held in the hospital’s psych ward and is under the care of their staff. The hospital claims that Dr. Fisher is not a reputable source as he has been recovering from the death of his own son and thereby sees mitochondrial disease where others do not. There is also evidence to show that Becky grew up in a household where her mother was constantly pulling scams to dupe physicians and medical insurance companies. All of this information, in Palmer’s able hands, is spun in masterful fashion --- along with several other rumors and subplots --- to the point where readers will not know who to believe.

With Meghan trapped at White Memorial and a ward of the state, the Gerards get desperate. This is all further complicated by the fact that Carl is starting to turn his allegiance against Becky and with the hospital and child welfare representatives in such a manner that you have to feel something else is going on with him that we are not seeing.

When one of the doctors overseeing Meghan at White Memorial turns up dead, we immediately have the police involved in this case. As far as motive goes, all eyes point towards Becky, who would do anything for her daughter. More importantly, as it states on the book’s cover, “Can you love someone to death?”

SAVING MEGHAN is far more than just a medical thriller, and D.J. Palmer elevates matters to another level. It is never predictable, and the joy comes from watching your allegiance --- and suspicions --- jump from character to character in an effort to get to the bottom of things. All I can say, without giving anything away, is that nothing should be taken at face value, and there are more than a few surprises placed within the novel like land mines, set to go off and spin things in a completely different direction.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 12, 2019

Saving Meghan
by D.J. Palmer

  • Publication Date: April 9, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250107458
  • ISBN-13: 9781250107459