Dr. Knox begins with an intense emergency, a young boy is brought to Knox’ clinic, in danger of dying of anaphylaxis. He and his crew are on it, though, and the boy pulls through. Knox talks to the mother, notes she is covered in bruises before she excuses herself, saying she’ll be back as she heads to the bathroom. Of course, she slips out the back, disappearing, leaving her son behind. Knox is certain, though, she will be back and resists his nurse Lydia’s insistence she call DCFS. A review of the clinic security videos offer an explanation for her disappearance, some thuggish enforcers were seen at the front of the clinic.
Next Knox is off with his good friend, former soldier-mercenary and all-around good guy with a gun Sutter, to do some off the books doctoring. These under the table, unreported missions of mercy are a source of the intrigue, drama and comedy that are part of this books charm.
Knox is the newest generation of many generations of doctors, but years with a relief organization in war zones has toughened him up and dedicated him to serving those most in need. Rejecting the comforts of a New England practice catering to the wealthy, he opens a clinic in a poor, underserved neighborhood in Los Angeles. He’s got plenty of troubles, too, such as an expiring lease and a landlord looking to sell. Yet, he risks everything to protect Alex. the boy left behind.
There’s more than one group of thugs chasing Alex and his mother, adding to the danger. They range from the Brays, the 1% of the 1% with deep pockets and deeper political power to Siggy, Russian mobster and human trafficker. In the moral universe of this stories thugs, Siggy is on the nicer end.
I liked Dr. Knox. Peter Spiegelman, the author also edited Wall Street Noir, an edition of the Akashic Noir series and it was outstanding. I also read his Black Maps, the first in series featuring John March, a cop turned private eye with a focus on Wall Street, high finance criminality. It was also intricately plotted. In this novel, Spiegelman pretty much writes Knox into a corner. How he gets himself out is probably the only way he could, but it is a bit unlikely. It felt just a like deus ex machine, though we were introduced to our deus early enough for it to be fair, it just felt unworthy of the rest of the book which was thoughtful, exciting and well done.
One of the ways Dr. Knox sets itself apart from other thrillers is that his friends and coworkers who are effected by his decisions to take on the bad guys speak up about how unfair that it. They question his judgment and his values. After all, he is helping hundreds of people with his clinic, but he is willing to jeopardize all of that for this woman and her son. What about those people? And what about putting their lives at risk? He didn’t ask their permission before dragging them into danger. Openly questioning that privilege elevates Dr. Knox, asking its readers to think a little more deeply about how our heroes have multiple responsibilities and how sometimes knowing what is the right thing is harder than we think.