To Do No Harm

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

TO DO NO HARM is a story set around three pregnant women who are attended by the same physician. One is well-adjusted; one is in psychotherapy to try to prevent a third miscarriage; and one is a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who doesn’t want her child. Their lives are intertwined and permanently altered when the doctor’s nurse, Isobel, tries to solve the problem of her lover, drug addict/attorney Peter Balkan.

Peter needs money, big money, and fast. Isobel tells him about the unwed teenager and an adoption set up. But the newborn is ill and not expected to live. Peter becomes frantic, and coerces Isobel to join him in a fiendish plot to kidnap a healthy baby and get him his money. Much evil ensues.

TO DO NO HARM has structural problems. It suffers from a long, labored expository section which has no suspense. Indeed, suspense does not even begin to build until the second third of the book. In addition, several sequences are confusing, and extraneous details are dropped in with no explanation.

Most disturbing is the manipulation of the reader on page one. HIV is mentioned, as shocker, and the reader assumes it is going to be a major theme. It is not; it is dropped early on and then resurfaces as a device used to make a moral statement.