Deadly Cure by Mahi Cheshire | Medical Thriller | Vintage Publishing | 416 pages | Review by Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed
Mahi Cheshire’s debut medical thriller, Deadly Cure, begins with a bang and continues its fast pace right through the end. It starts with an early morning trauma call in a busy Emergency Department at a London hospital. All staff race towards a patient that has been rushed in, including Dr. Rea Dharmasena. Understanding the events of that morning requires going back seven months prior.
Keep your frenemies closer
Deadly Cure is largely told through Rea’s perspective, but the view of Rea’s childhood friend and arch-nemesis, Dr. Julia Stone, is also present. Both Rea and Julia are ambitious, intelligent, and stubborn. They have also taken identical paths in their careers. They are PhDs and MDs, and they are both eager to secure a new role as a clinical researcher joining the team conducting cutting-edge cancer research at the London Medical Institute (LMI) under its charming Director, Dr. Owen Ansah.
All isn’t fair in this game and Julia, who chooses to go through illicit means to win, is selected as the top candidate. But this is Rea’s dream job, and losing out creates a rift in an already shaky friendship. Rea ends up applying for and accepting the only other position available at LMI, which is less prestigious.
Julia and Rea have been friends since they were teenagers, becoming close through their individual traumatic experiences – Julia lost an older sister to a brain tumour while Rea was in a car accident that impacted her brain and left her with a need for high-strength painkillers to cope with her frequent headaches. However, what lies beneath this so-called friendship is a lot of tension. Rea is fragile following her accident, but she has also never felt quite good or smart enough next to Julia, who seems to always shine. Rea always needed Julia’s support even through their doctoral programme and medical school. Yet, things are meant to be different this time – if Rea gets the clinical researcher position, it’s her time to shine.
But Julia gets the job and she is excelling. As Julia is on track to be a rock star in the cancer research world, Rea tries to find her place at LMI. With time, Rea accepts how things turned out and decides to patch things up with Julia. She turns up at Julia’s flat one day to mend their friendship, but instead finds the flat in chaos and Julia murdered.
The rest of the book goes through twists and turns to reveal who murdered Julia. Why is Rea at Julia’s flat on the day Julia is found dead? Does Rea really dislike Julia THAT much? Is Rea really so angry about losing her dream job to Julia that she would do something that sinister?
Shady and unpredictable
In Deadly Cure, Cheshire makes the reader question who can truly be trusted. One reason she excels at this is because both Rea and Julia are extremely flawed. I appreciate Deadly Cure for creating complex, multi-dimensional characters who are not only ambitious and intelligent but who are also pretty unlikable. Rea and Julia are especially unlikeable because they claim to be friends but genuinely don’t like one another or truly root for each other’s success. Still, both characters are very real and also quite human.
Killer medical world
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional – although after watching all 18 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, I imagine I am a surgical resident at Grey-Sloan Memorial. However, Cheshire is a doctor, and she vividly presents the medical world on the page in a way that is accessible and understandable to all. I am with Rea when she runs through the Emergency Department to a patient in cardiac arrest, and I have a feel and sense of the extremely competitive world of medical research.
Deadly Cure also mirrors a modern medical landscape, reflecting world-class medical professionals and clinical researchers of different races and genders. The book features Rea who is of Sri Lankan origin, her close friend and flatmate, Dr. Feng Tanaka, who is of Japanese origin, and Dr. Owen Ansah who is of Ghanaian origin.
Do No Harm
Deadly Cure is set in the medical world where cutting-edge cancer research is being trialled. The thriller doesn’t shy away from the charged issues of ethics, both moral and medical, that come up. This can make it quite an uncomfortable read, but it is a necessary one. It makes the reader question how far will and should one go to get a job or to find a cure? And at what cost? Is killing one human life worth saving many more in the long run? Are people willing to cut corners and shave off years of ethical protocols to reach the goal of finding a cure for cancer?
Deadly Cure by Mahi Cheshire is an original, thrilling, and fast-paced read. It reveals what goes wrong when rivalries get in the way of friendship and medicine, and how the ripple effects of one action could lead to devastating outcomes. The main characters may not be likable, but I couldn’t stop reading as I tried to decide whodunit? How they dunit? And why they dunit?
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