Originally created 08/15/04

'The Donor' has plenty to give



Dennis Heller is accumulating a puzzling collection of surgical scars at a young age in Frank M. Robinson's new medical thriller, "The Donor."

It begins when Heller goes into a Boston hospital for a routine physical - his father insisted he have one twice a year - and leaves minus his gallbladder, or so he's told.

Several years later, he has another organ removed, this time for "internal injuries" sustained in a car crash in San Francisco. Trouble is, Heller remembers some minor cuts when his air bag hadn't worked and he'd been thrown against a side window. But internal injuries? He instinctively feels that something is terribly wrong.

For starters, the surgeon who performed the later operation has the same pronounced Spanish accent as the doctor who had operated on him in Boston. The doctor wears a surgical mask so Heller can't see his face. Still, he sounds a lot like the guy who'd cut him open in Boston.

Then Heller hears the surgeon and a nurse talking quietly in the corridor outside his room. "... Wants us to go ahead - take the rest ..." "... He'll die. ..." "... Be an anesthesia accident. It doesn't happen often but it will happen this time. ..."

That's when he realizes they're going to operate again, and he's not going to leave the hospital alive.

Heller manages to escape, but collapses on the street. Two passers-by take him to another medical facility, where a wary Heller gives a phony name.

A doctor asks a few pressing questions and then tells him that he's been "harvested." "Somebody stole a kidney and part of your liver for transplants. I've never heard of it happening before, least of all to the same person twice."

Heller's world promptly spins out of orbit and crashes. He realizes that someone very rich and powerful is after his organs, though he doesn't know why. Fearful that his heart and lungs will be the next to be harvested, he goes on the run. He soon discovers that everything he'd believed about his life was a lie.

Robinson tightens the tension as Heller learns that his closest friend is a powerful enemy, and that his adoptive father had agreed to the organ harvesting. Most shocking of all: the secret of Heller's birth.

Whom should you trust in "The Donor"?

Almost no one.