Desert Isle Keeper
The Silent Cradle
This book should come labeled, “Warning, pregnant women should consult a physician before reading this book.” Margaret Cuthbert, herself an OB/GYN, has written a drama-packed medical thriller that grabs the reader early and never lets go. This book is not a romance. The romantic theme is merely one thread woven into the plot, and its presence offers moments of needed relief from the almost overwhelming tension of this chilling tale.
Feisty Dr. Rae Duprey is a young, black OB who is dedicated to the point of obsession to her goal of saving lives. When Rae was a young girl, she watched her mother bleed to death in the back of an ambulance while giving birth. Never fully recovering from the trauma, Rae’s ambition in her career springs from her determination to prevent loss of life. As vice-chair, soon to become chair, of the most prestigious OB/GYN department in the state, Rae is satisfied with her professional accomplishments, but lonely in her personal life.
Rae’s failed relationship with the current chair of the department, Bo Michaels, adds to the enmity between them, already intense because Bo opened a birth center across the street from the hospital. Due to that competition, the hospital board decides to completely shut down its OB/GYN department, and Rae is caught up in a desperate battle to prevent this. Now something truly sinister is happening as there is one maternity emergency after another, and Rae is convinced that someone is purposely trying to kill mothers and their babies. Getting anyone else to believe that is an almost impossible feat. Her one support seems to be a handsome new cardiac anesthesiologist, Sam Hartman, whom Rae finds increasingly attractive despite her suspicions about his motives in the political tangle.
“Vivid” is a good word for this book. The operating room scenes are graphic and almost unbearably tense. Ms. Cuthbert paints drama with a broad brush, and yet manages not to neglect detail. The characters, major and minor (and there are a slew of them) are well-rounded and incredibly real. The author also manages to make the villain a somewhat sympathetic character, a feat that adds greatly to the emotional ending. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, they somehow do, and yet the tale remains horrifyingly believable. This is a top-notch mystery, with unpredictable twists and turns. Rae is amusing as she jumps from one theory to another, unabashed when proven wrong, and desperate to uncover the whole truth.
The only weakness I found was the lack of detail given about the elusive Sam Hartman, who never fully emerged from the rank of secondary characters. This increased the mystery, but left the romantic thread underdeveloped. Regardless, this is an exciting first novel from Margaret Cuthbert, and I look forward to reading more of her work.