Tess Gerritsen Bloodstream

ISBN 13: 9780002259415

Bloodstream

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9780002259415: Bloodstream

With her acclaimed novels Harvest and Life Support, New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen has injected a new dose of adrenaline into the medical thriller. Of Harvest, Michael Palmer declared: "Only a riveting storyteller who is also a physician could have written this book." Now, Gerritsen again weaves frighteningly realistic medical detail into heart-stopping suspense, as a small-town doctor races to unravel the roots of a violent epidemic -- before it destroys everything she loves.

Lapped by he gentle waters of Locust Lake, the small resort town of Tranquility, Maine, seems like the perfect spot for Dr. Claire Elliot to shelter her adolescent son, Noah, from the distractions of the big city, and the lingering memory of his father's death. She's also hopeful that she can earn the trust of the town as she builds a new practice. But all her plans unravel with the news of a shocking incident: a teenage boy under her care has committed an appalling act of violence.

Claire has stopped prescribing a controversial drug to the troubled boy, a decision that some in town now second-guess. But before she can defend herself, a rash of new teenage violence erupts in Tranquility, forcing Claire to perform increasingly risky emergency procedures. And when one of her patients dies, the town's panic turns to fury.

Shaken by accusations, and fearful that Noah is now at risk, Claire desperately searches for a medical cause behind the murderous epidemic. She begins to suspect that the placid waters of Locust lake conceal a disturbing history -- and an insidiously lethal danger. But while Claire races to save the town -- and her son -- from harm, she discovers an even greater threat: a shocking conspiracy to manipulate nature, and turn innocents to slaughter.

Woven with the kind of action and detail only a doctor could deliver, and propelled by an expert sense of small-town terror, Bloodstream is Tess Gerritsen's most unforgettable thriller yet.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, Harvest, which became a New York Times bestseller, and for her second national bestseller, Life Support, both of which are available in paperback from Pocket Books. She lives in Maine.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1: The Present

"Someone's going to get hurt out there," said Dr. Claire Elliot, looking out her kitchen window. Morning mist, thick as smoke, hung over the lake, and the trees beyond her window drifted in and out of focus. Another gunshot rang out, closer this time. Since first light, she'd heard the gunfire, and would probably hear it all day until dusk, because it was the first day of November. The start of hunting season. Somewhere in those woods, a man with a rifle was tramping around half-blind through the mist as imagined shadows of white-tailed deer danced around him.

"I don't think you should wait outside for the bus," said Claire. "I'll drive you to school."

Noah, hunched at the breakfast table, said nothing. He scooped up another spoonful of Cheerios and slurped it down. Fourteen years old, and her son still ate like a two-year-old, milk splashing on the table, crumbs of toast littering the floor around his chair. He ate without looking at her, as though to meet her gaze was to come face to face with Medusa. And what difference would it make if he did look at me, she thought wryly. My darling son has already turned to stone.

She said again, "I'll drive you to school, Noah."

"That's okay. I'm taking the bus." He stood up and grabbed his backpack and skateboard.

"Those hunters out there can't possibly see what they're shooting at. At least wear the orange hat. So they won't think you're a deer."

"But it looks so dorky."

"You can take it off on the bus. Just put it on now." She took the knit cap from the mitten shelf and held it out to him.

He looked at it, then finally, at her. He had sprouted up several inches in just one year, and they were now the same height, their gazes meeting straight on, neither one able to claim the advantage. She wondered if Noah was as acutely aware of their new physical equality as she was. Once she could hug him and a child would hug back. Now the child was gone, his softness resculpted into muscle, his face narrowed to a sharp new angularity.

"Please," she said, still holding out the cap.

At last he sighed and jammed the cap over his dark hair. She had to suppress a smile; he did look dorky.

He had already started down the hallway when she called out: "Good-bye kiss?"

With a look of exasperation, he turned to give her the barest peck on the cheek, and then he was out of the door.

No hugs anymore, she thought ruefully as she stood at the window and watched him trudge toward the road. It's all grunts and shrugs and awkward silences.

He stopped beneath the maple tree at the end of the driveway, pulled off the cap, and stood with his hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold. No jacket, just a thin gray sweatshirt against a thirty-seven-degree morning. It was cool to be cold. She had to resist the urge to run outside and bundle him into a coat.

Claire waited until the school bus appeared. She watched her son climb aboard without a backward glance, saw his silhouette move down the aisle and take a seat beside another student -- a girl. Who is that girl? she wondered. I don't know the names of my son's friends anymore. I've shrunk to just a small corner of his universe. She knew this was supposed to happen, the pulling away, the child's struggle for independence, but she was not prepared for it. The transformation had occurred suddenly, as though a sweet boy had walked out of the house one day, and a stranger had walked back in. You're all I have left of Peter. I'm not ready to lose you as well.

The bus rumbled away.

Claire returned to the kitchen and sat down to her cup of lukewarm coffee. The house felt hollow and silent, a home still in mourning. She sighed and unrolled the weekly Tranquility Gazette. HEALTHY DEER HERD PROMISES BOUNTIFUL HARVEST, announced the front page. The hunt was on. Thirty days to bag your deer.

Outside, another gunshot echoed in the woods.

She turned the page to the police blotter. There was no mention yet of last night's Halloween disturbance, or of the seven rowdy teenagers who'd been arrested for taking their annual trick-or-treating too far. But there, buried among the reports of lost dogs and stolen firewood, was her name, under VIOLATIONS: "Claire Elliot, age forty, operating vehicle with expired safety sticker." She still hadn't brought the Subaru in for its safety inspection; today she'd have to drive the truck instead, just to avoid getting another citation. Irritably she flipped to the next page and was scanning the day's weather forecast -- cold and windy, high in the thirties, low in the twenties -- when the telephone rang.

She rose to answer it. "Hello?"

"Dr. Elliot? This is Rachel Sorkin out on Toddy Point Road. I've got something of an emergency out here. Elwyn just shot himself."

"What?"

"You know, that idiot Elwyn Clyde. He came trespassing on my property, chasing after some poor deer. Killed it too -- a beautiful doe, right in my front yard. These stupid men and their stupid guns."

"What about Elwyn?"

"Oh, he tripped and shot his own foot. Serves him right."

"He should go straight to the hospital."

"Well you see, that's the problem. He doesn't want to go to the hospital, and he won't let me call an ambulance. He wants me to drive him and the deer home. Well, I'm not going to. So what should I do with him?"

"How badly is he bleeding?"

She heard Rachel call out: "Hey, Elwyn? Elwyn! Are you bleeding?" Then Rachel came back on the line. "He says he's fine. He just wants a ride home. But I'm not taking him, and I'm certainly not taking the deer."

Claire sighed. "I guess I can drive over and take a look. You're on Toddy Point Road?"

"About a mile past the Boulders. My name's on the mail box."

The mist was starting to lift as Claire turned her pickup truck onto Toddy Point Road. Through stands of white pine, she caught glimpses of Locust Lake, the fog rising like steam. Already beams of sunlight were breaking through, splashing gold onto the rippling water. Across the lake, just visible through fingers of mist, was the north shore with its summer cottages, most of them boarded up for the season, their wealthy owners gone home to Boston or New York. On the south shore, where Claire now drove, were the more modest homes, some of them little more than two-room shacks tucked in among the trees.

She drove past the Boulders, an outcropping of granite stones where the local teenagers gathered to swim in the summertime, and spotted the mailbox with the name Sorkin.

A bumpy dirt road brought her to the house. It was a strange and whimsical structure, rooms added haphazardly, corners jutting out in unexpected places. Rising above it all, like the tip of a crystal breaking through the roof, was a glassed-in belfry. An eccentric woman would have an eccentric house, and Rachel Sorkin was one of Tranquility's odd birds, a striking, black-haired woman who strode once a week into town, swathed in a purple hooded cape. This looked like a house in which a caped woman might reside.

By the front steps, next to a neatly tended herb garden, lay the dead deer.

Claire climbed out of her truck. At once two dogs bounded out of the woods and barred her way, barking and growling. Guarding the kill, she realized.

Rachel came out of the house and yelled at the dogs: "Get out of here, you bloody animals! Go home!" She grabbed a broom from the porch and came tearing down the steps, long black hair flying, the broom thrust forward like a lance.

The dogs backed away.

"Ha! Cowards," said Rachel, lunging at them with the broom. They retreated toward the woods.

"Hey, you leave my dogs alone!" shouted Elwyn Clyde, who had limped out onto the porch. Elwyn was a prime example of an evolutionary dead end: a fifty-year-old lump bundled in flannel, and doomed to eternal bachelorhood. "They're not hurtin' nothin'. They're just watchin' after my deer."

"Elwyn, I got news for you. You killed this poor creature on my property. So she's mine."

"What you gonna do with a deer? Blasted vegetarian!"

Claire cut in: "How's the foot, Elwyn?"

He looked it Claire and blinked, as though surprised to see her. "I tripped," he said. "No big deal."

"A bullet wound is always a big deal. May I take a look at it?"

"Can't pay you..." He paused, one scraggly eyebrow lifting as a sly thought occurred. "'Less you want some venison."

"I just want to make sure you're not bleeding to death. We can settle up some other time. Can I look at your foot?"

"If you really want to," he said, and limped back into the house.

"This should be a treat," said Rachel.

It was warm inside the kitchen. Rachel threw a birch log into the wood stove, and sweet smoke puffed out as she dropped the cast iron lid back in place.

"Let's see the foot," said Claire.

Elwyn hobbled over to a chair, leaving smears of blood on the floor. He had his sock on, and there was it jagged hole at the top, near the big toe, as though a rat had chewed through the wool. "Hardly bothering me," he said. "Not worth all this fuss, if you ask me."

Claire knelt clown and peeled off the sock. It came away slowly, the wool matted to his foot not by blood but by sweat and dead skin.

"Oh God," said Rachel, cupping her hand over her nose. "Don't you ever change your socks, Elwyn?"

The bullet had passed through the fleshy web between the first and second toe. Claire found the exit wound underneath the foot. There was only a little blood oozing out now. Trying not to gag on the smell, she tested movement of all the toes, and determined that no nerves had been damaged.

"You'll have to clean it and change the bandages every day," she said. "And you need a tetanus shot, Elwyn."

"Oh, I got one of them already."

"When?"

"Last year, from ol' Doc Pomeroy After I shot myself."

"Is this an annual event?"

"That one went through my other foot. 'Tweren't a big deal."

Dr. Pomeroy had died back in January, and Claire had acquired all his old medical records when she'd bought the pr...

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