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REVIEW: Countdown to Death by Debby Giusti

Dear Ms. Giusti,

I’ve got to say that this is one of the most original romantic suspense plots I’ve encountered in a long time. In a subgenre overflowing with serial killers, secret government operations, ex-SEALs, and other sometimes hard to believe plot elements, you’ve given us something different. Double value coupon points for that!

Allison Stewart works in research at Magnolia Medical in Atlanta, Ga. Specifically she’s trying to develop a lab test for units of blood collected for transfusion to patients. As if hepatitis and HIV aren’t enough to worry about, now there are too many units being lost due to worry about prions – the proteins responsible for scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cows and, most importantly, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. She hasn’t perfected the test yet leading to the board of directors questioning whether or not they want to keep funding her research.

If that wasn’t bad enough, three units of blood recently collected during a blood drive have tested positive for possible prions. With the blood supply chronically below that of demand, the pressure is on to release those units for use in surgical procedures. Allison’s got three days to head to the small town where they were collected and try and determine a possible link between them that might also explain and validate her test results.

It doesn’t take long before she starts to stir up the local population. In fact, one night and the B&B in which she’s staying goes up in flames. After her rescue by an intriguing local loaner, Allison at first can’t find the answers she needs. The people she’s interviewing are willing to talk but nothing is adding up. She does quickly pick up on the fact that Luke Garrison and his family are somehow linked, if only in the minds of the townspeople, to a brutal murder which took place ten years ago. With the clock ticking, Allison wonders how it all ties in together and if someone might be willing to murder again to keep her from finding out.

From your bio, I know that you’re a medical technologist and thus know all about lab tests and results. I think it’s wonderful that medical professions other than doctors and nurses are finally getting a turn in the spotlight. Now we just need to have a radiology tech crack a murder case as well! Thank you for doing a bang up job explaining what is going on with Allison’s tests and the possible consequences without making it either too simplistic or overly technical.

As well, I appreciate that you’ve made the small town of Sterling, GA into a place where people might actually want to live instead of a throwback to something out of the movie “Deliverance.” In the South, we’re not all redneck cousin marrying crackers who go out to terrorize the tourists for weekend fun. The secondary and tertiary characters in the town seem like normal, nice, hard working people especially the Sheriff who doesn’t lose his head when a local politician attempts to make trouble for the hero.

Allison is a smart heroine. She’s dedicated to her job, not just because, if she perfects it, her lab test stands to rake in the bucks but because she genuinely cares about keeping the nation’s blood supply safe. However, her back story needed to have been elaborated more since her issues with her brother’s death and subsequent estrangement from her father felt like little more than a surface wash to her character’s crisis of faith.

Luke is a gallant hero who saves the day yet I thought it more than odd that he would continue to stay near a small town that he feels suspects him of murder. And odder still that he would spend ten years basically sticking his head in the sand instead of trying to clear his reputation in this cold case. Add to this the fact that neither hero nor heroine apparently has had any kind of romantic relationship with anyone lately and the too sudden marriage proposal (they’ve known each other for, what?, a week?) rang false.

Luke’s aunt and handicapped sister are little more than ciphers. I felt that they were only in the story to add the Christian slant to it – what with Aunt Bett’s background and Shelly’s innocent, childlike acceptance and trust being the litmus test of Luke’s innocence for Allison.

As I said, the basis for the plot is quite original as is the way you tie it to the cold case murder and the small town in which that happened. The book is fairly short in length and this might be the cause for the above mentioned problems I had with it. With more room, perhaps some of these issues could have been expanded thus adding more depth to the story. It is a promising start to a new series that will hopefully shed some light on a little known ancillary medical service. C+

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

4 Comments

  1. TracyS
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 12:39:00

    I love the Bullet Catchers series, but I just found it so I haven’t tracked down all of the backlist. This was one I didn’t read yet. YAY!!

  2. Anonymousie
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 13:31:44

    Tracy –

    Dunno what made you think this was a Bullet Catcher book, but it most definitely isn’t! http://www.amazon.com/Countdown-Magnolia-Medical-Inspired-Suspense/dp/0373443102

    Oh, wait…was it because of the other post, the one on the short story download? I should have caught that…

  3. Jayne
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 20:11:28

    Sorry Tracy but Anonymousie is correct. This is not a Bullet Catcher book.

  4. TracyS
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 22:12:12

    I am not sure how this comment ended up here! It was meant to be under the short story download one.

    I must have clicked on the wrong post in my Google Reader and didn’t notice. GAH!!

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