The Patient’s List by James Caine

Despite the book’s rosy beginnings things begin to really escalate. There’s a suicide, a missing person, and murder after murder. There are strange goings on, a mysterious list of names, and a one-woman race to get to the bottom of things. (No spoilers.)

The book has a wonderfully happy start, describing the lives of two newlywed doctors and their dog. But this dreamy atmosphere comes to a swift end when one of Dr Rina Kent’s mental health patients suddenly crashes through a window, killing herself by landing on Rina’s car, right by her.

As you can imagine, this is traumatic for Rina, and the trauma of it all leads Rina and her hubby to split up. Rina decides to take on only night shifts and only the easier patients, but has a renewed sense of dedication to her role’s cause.

The former head of the department is murdered in his home, and no suspect is arrested.

A new patient is admitted to the ward following a suicide attempt shortly after her mother’s disappearance. She is autistic, mute, and does not communicate with anyone.

One night, there’s a creepy scene where the mute patient comes into the gym where Rina is working out under flashing lights as the power struggles in the old building, and the patient whispers 4 names, starting with the murdered head of department, and including Rina’s husband.

Rina is shocked and doesn’t know quite what to make of it all. Rina tries to find out more from the patient using unconventional means.

Rina seeks out her husband’s help, but all that seems to be on his mind is getting back together, and Rina doesn’t get anywhere.

When a second person on the list is murdered, Rina realizes that she has to come clean about the patient’s list. And with so many people in clear danger the story shifts to include the POV of the case detective, and Rina becomes a suspect.

There are action scenes and a confession, and as the story progresses the reader learns what connects the 4 people on the list. But the whole of the story doesn’t come out until the very last page, which is quite the twist.

This book was a nice, easy read and the story flowed well. There were some things I didn’t like about the book, however.

I found several characters angry and obnoxious, including the main protagonist Rina. That wasn’t a big deal though; I guess it adds to the drama.

And I would have liked to have known more about what was going through Rina’s mind rather than simply a report of what actions she took, and a more detailed imagining of what might link the people on the patient’s list.

I enjoyed the story, and didn’t guess what connected the characters or who the true culprit was.


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