A Mistake, by Carl Shuker (VUP March 2019)

Neil's picture

Carl Shuker, a former editor at the British Medical Journal, knows his medical procedures, and the politics of New Zealand's medical profession. In pared back, precise prose, he tells the story of a fearsome surgeon, Elizabeth Taylor, who makes an error during an operation, and the consequences of that error. The opening sequence, in the operating theatre, is on of the most agonisingly tense scenes I've ever read. The rest of the novel retains that tension. Elizabeth is a conflicted, not always likeable character - the reader is torn between empathy for her plight and for the plight of all in the medical profession who might make errors, and her unlikeability. In a way, the reader becomes complicit in the judgement of her mistake. This is an excellent, claustrophobic read, which will resonate long after it's finished.