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Top Five Medical Thrillers
Guest Post by Jack Anderson,

author of The Grief Doctor

Novelists rack their brains to craft high stakes, life-or-death situations. We often forget, medical professionals face those situations every day. The field of medicine rides the line of mortal danger more than any other, and a medical degree can be a tool in a hero’s hands and a horrifying weapon for a villain to wield.

I’ve been lucky enough to write in this genre, with my debut novel The Grief Doctor. Both as part of my research for the novel, and in my spare time, I’ve been lucky to come across some truly brilliant examples of the medical thriller.

So, without further ado:

5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

A patient who doesn’t speak, and a psychotherapist determined to figure out why. The Silent Patient blurred the lines between doctor and detective, victim and perpetrator in a truly mesmerising way.

The manner by which Alicia’s story is slowly unravelled felt so satisfying. The story felt like a deep dive into a single person’s mind, and the drive towards its shocking conclusion made it completely unputdownable.


4. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

You might feel, compared to the other entries in this list, The Andromeda Strain lies too far on the sci-fi end of the medical thriller spectrum. All I know is that I read this story in a single day, barely realising time had passed.

A medical graduate himself, Crichton’s nail-biting thriller about a shifting extraterrestrial virus still feels grounded in reality. The novel’s ability to ask insightful human questions, whilst still delivering on truly global stakes, more than earns it a place in my top five.

3. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Almost 140 years after its publication, I found Robert Louis Stevenson’s seminal gothic tale as relevant today as ever. Though narrated by a medical layman, the story categorically confronts the hubris of self-medication and addiction.

Perhaps it’s on the periphery of what would become the modern medical thriller but, as a tense psychological body horror, featuring a doctor losing himself to the madness of his own treatment, it more than belongs on this list.

2. Coma by Robin Cook

I’ll admit, I only read Robin Cook’s Coma after I had started on my own medical thriller, but it immediately set the bar. To me, it felt like the ultimate cat and mouse of medical ethics, a responsible student doctor confronting the spectre of intentional medical sabotage somewhere within her hospital.

With one of the most horrifying visuals I’ve encountered in a book, Coma left me with a clear understanding of the gravity of the medical thriller; while doctors have an unmatched capacity for healing others, those same skills can have horrifying implications if wielded without conscience.

1. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

A personal favourite of mine, a proud homage to pulp thrillers and a shining example of the psychological thriller.

Teddy and Chuck’s investigation into the depths of an enigmatic psychiatric hospital, the slow revelations of its administrator’s unorthodox methods, and the final mind-bending revelations kept me hooked from beginning to end.

The questions that arose for me, about the ethics of unorthodox treatment and the nature of the doctor-patient dynamic, stayed with me long after I’d turned the final page.

Jack Anderson's The Grief Doctor is out now! The author lives with his wife in Sheffield. He is the author of the viral internet serial “Has Anyone Heard of The Left/Right Game?” which has since been adapted into a hit QCode podcast. The Grief Doctor is his debut novel.

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