Bookworm: Need something pleasurably distinctive?

‘Sometimes People Die’ is the book for you

Terri Schlichenmeyer
“Sometimes People Die: A Novel” author Simon Stephenson.

“Sometimes People Die: A Novel”

  • By Simon Stephenson
  • c.2022, Hanover Square Press
  • $27.99, 368 pages

It’s not your time. And so, you dodged a bullet, missed the piano falling from a fourth-story window, swerved at the right time, and you survived. Disaster averted. Death cheated – which only proves that it’s not your time yet, but don’t let your guard down. As in the new novel “Sometimes People Die” by Simon Stephenson, you never know what could happen.

“Sometimes People Die: A Novel” by Simon Stephenson.

Normally, it was work he would never have taken. There was little choice, though: a job at a half-rate, broken-system hospital was the only second chance he was offered. After he’d been caught stealing opioids from the patients he was caring for in Scotland, he was lucky to have been sent to London to try again. And there he was. Second-chancing like his life depended on it.

Early in his tenure, he’d come to realize that he wasn’t the best junior doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital, but he was far from the worst. His flat mate, George, for instance, was a typical osteo, like a Labrador retriever who was always eager but not too bright. On the other hand, George’s girlfriend, Amelia, was the best junior doctor he’d seen, ever. Whenever there was a problem anywhere in the hospital, Amelia was called to fix it – and she usually did.

In light of that, it was odd that St. Luke’s had so many unexplained deaths.

Of course, he caught the blame for one of them because the patient died of arrhythmia with a high level of opioids in her blood, and his past came to light. He was shunned for a while, but whatever. The ensuing investigation proved him not guilty and he tried to put it all behind him but when George killed himself with an overdose of potassium, it was as if the mystery became personal.

George and Amelia had a great future planned together, and George’s suicide made no sense. Neither did the fact that his least-favorite patient died suddenly for no reason, or that a nurse was arrested. It seemed like a good time to start stealing opioids again.

It was also a good time to begin paying closer attention to the wards of St. Luke’s ...

We can all agree that murder is certainly no laughing matter. Fortunately, “Sometimes People Die” is.

At its heart is the most sarcastic, derisive physician you’ll ever meet, a man who’s not named and if he were real, he’d probably prefer it that way. He’s like your old college roommate who never got around to getting his degree and still lives in his mom’s basement: He can be agreeable but mostly he’s flippant and irreverent, a little bit lazy, and mostly very semi-trustworthy. How author Simon Stephenson keeps the guy likable is brilliant, and the ending of this novel, its solution, is a pleasure to achieve.

Whodunit fans and those who enjoy a good thriller will like this book, but an appreciation of cynicism is a big plus. If you need something pleasurably distinctive, “Sometimes People Die” is the book to find next time.

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