Josh Bazell wrote his first novel while studying to be a medical doctor, a fact that would make its publication noteworthy, even if the book weren't particularly good. But Bazell has outdone himself, as Beat the Reaper is a consistently witty and entertaining debut.
Peter Brown is the most improbable of hyphenates: a hit man-turned-physician. While working as a doctor in a Manhattan hospital, his wicked past revisits him when a mobster from his former life is admitted as a patient. It turns out that the mob is still looking for Brown and he's going to have to pull off quite a trick just to survive until the end of the book.
Beat the Reaper is a calculating novel, the kind of scenario that often falls flat, collapsing under the weight of its machinations. But Bazell pulls it off, turning what might have been ludicrous into something that is delightful.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, February 8, 2009