Getting to the heart of the matter

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Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

Every day that you are alive, you are in danger. Leave the house and a tree could fall on you as you walk to the street. Or, an out-of-control car could run you over. The copy machine at work might explode. You might trip over a crack in the sidewalk and split your head open.

Statistically speaking, mind you, it’s not going to happen. There’s a good chance you’ll survive for the next several hours and live to see another day. Another day of danger.

In the new book, “Just Take My Heart,” by Mary Higgins Clark, a young prosecutor is in charge of a court case that could make her career. But, what she doesn’t know might kill her.

It was no secret that Broadway actress Natalie Raines and her estranged husband Gregg Aldrich were splitting. Everybody knew that Gregg wanted to reconcile, but Natalie hinted that she had moved on and found another man. So it was no surprise that, when Natalie was discovered dying on her kitchen floor, Gregg was at the top of the suspect list.

When sleazy con-man Jimmy Easton was arrested and told police that Gregg had offered him $10,000 to murder Natalie, it seemed like a slam-dunk case for prosecutor Emily Wallace.

Wallace was young and had worked hard at the Bergen County prosecutor’s office. This plum case, handed to her because her boss was hoping to be appointed to a higher office, would put her in the limelight and on the front pages.

Frankly, Emily deserved it. Things were finally going well in her life. Not long ago, her husband Michael, was killed in Iraq and shortly after that, Emily had a heart transplant. While her health was somewhat frail, her spirit was strong. She was going to make sure Gregg Aldrich paid for Natalie Raines’ murder.

Zach Lanning thought the authorities sure were stupid. When he killed his first wife, his second wife, and then, his third wife, her children and her mother, it was way too easy to escape by changing his appearance and his name. It was almost funny, he thought. But it wouldn’t be so funny when he killed Emily Wallace. That, thought Zach, would be payback for her alone … despite a colossally transparent plot line that can (disappointingly) be seen a mere one-third into this book, “Just Take My Heart” is pretty good.

Clark’s characters are, with one exception, not much different than in any of her other novels. What sets this book apart is that the “bad guy” is one of the creepiest, most unsettling killers I’ve seen in a long time. You meet Zach Lanning early on, and he’s the kind of character that makes you want to go check the doors and window locks again. And again. Which definitely makes this book one to read during daylight hours.

If you’re in search for a decent novel, one without four-letter words or graphic blood-and-guts, then look for “Just Take My Heart.” Just don’t take it to bed with you.

Match Day by Brian Eule

Remember when people wrote letters? It went like this: You spent lots of time putting your thoughts to paper and recreating your day. When you were done, you folded the paper, put it in an envelope with an address and a stamp, tossed it in the mailbox, then waited forever for a reply. Ahh, the anticipation.

In the new book, “Match Day,” by Brian Eule, three medical students eagerly and nervously anticipate a letter, almost like the old days; only, this letter will alter the course of their lives.

Every year in March, while most of us are hoping for warmer weather, thousands of medical students are sweating. No matter how laid back they pretend to be, not one of them can stop thinking about the culmination of months and months of travel, hard work and best behavior. On one certain day in March, it’s Match Day.

Long before that important day, students visit hospitals around the country, undergoing rounds of interviews and answering questions. At the end of interview season, the students rank the hospitals at which they’d most like to work. Hospital residency directors do the same with students.

You’d almost have to be a math whiz to understand how a computer pairs thousands of students with the hospitals and vice-versa. In the end, though, the “how” doesn’t matter to the high percentage of medical students who get a letter confirming residency at one of their top choices. This book is about three of them.

Rakhi Barkowski dreamed since she was a little girl of spending her residency at UCSF hospitals. But her husband Scott made a lot of sacrifices during her years at med school. When she was accepted for a graduate program at UCLA, Rakhi learned that in a high-power, dual-career marriage, sacrifices go both ways.

Michelle LaFonda always wanted a family almost as much as she wanted to be a doctor, but the road to radiology meant putting off having children. With the stresses of being a resident, it also meant asking hard questions about personal relationships.

Stephanie Chao had a goal of being a surgeon, but it would take time: years of residency, followed by years of fellowship and long, unpredictable hours. Fortunately, she had an understanding boyfriend.

Television medical dramas make it look so easy. In this delightful book, Eule follows three doctors from just before Match Day through their first year of residency. While this is an inspiring true story, Eule isn’t afraid to be truthful. He describes the angst and doubt that an intern feels, the almost unbearable exhaustion, frustration, lack of family time and the (sometimes) decades of training that a new doctor endures.

Still, while this bluntness will make some people glad they went into another line of work, Eule’s deftness of story and his happy ending will make others want to run out and study for the MCAT.

Forget about television. The real drama is here, so open this cover. For doctors, doctor wannabes or anyone who loves a good story, “Match Day” is striking.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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