Cuts Into Reader's Mind
by Jim Pratt
Oxford Town Paper
November 23 - 29, 2000
Joseph T. McFadden can get into your brain both physically and mentally.
He is a neurosurgeon with 42 years experience operating on many
brains removing tumors and squelching the bursting of an aneurysm
with a clamp he invented.
Now a novel he has written cuts into the mind through the reader's
eyes and exposes the frailty of life and death in a 3000-bed charity
hospital. McFadden's book is "Hermes' Viper" an intriguing murder
This new author is Oxford born and joins the ranks of Oxford writers.
He does with medicine and his knowledge of neurosurgery what Grisham
does with law. He weaves a captivating tale of life and death in
the hospital, including its successes, failing and flaws.
A woman stalker who the reader meets early, preys on the hopeless
and terminally ill. She reveals her plans and logs the results in
a journal. Yet not even she knows who she is and the reader doesn't
find out until page 422.
Dr. Stuart Holden is the surgeon, born in Alabama and practicing
his specialty in the South Chicago Hospital. He has been in residence
for 16 years when the story begins. He is a single father raising
three children, since his wife died of a mysterious disease four
years ago. It is revealed that the woman stalker infected the woman
while she slept at home.
The woman, a hospital employee, is in love with him and extends
her mercy deaths to his family so that she can possess him. Her
illness is called "Old Maids' Disease," medically termed erotomania.
To complicate matters she has a multiple personality disorder and
disguises herself into at least 10 different people.
Child abuse and tragic burns brought on her condition from a fire
that scarred her body and killed her mother. She has lost her identity
even to herself.
In these disguises and knowledge and employment at the hospital
she has killed hundreds of people and not been detected. She does
it for Stuart, her beloved brain surgeon, by getting those that
are all but dead, or wished they were dead, out of the way so the
beds can be filled with patients that need his service.
The abnormal number of deaths was detected in a comparison with
other charity hospitals. The Chicago hospital had beds available
where others were filled and had waiting lists. The death rate at
the hospital was consistently two percent higher than the other
charity hospitals. The majority of the deaths were Holden's patients.
One of her selves kills a competitor who was a threat to Holden
and she made it look like an accident. She even threatens and nearly
kills his children's nanny and a woman with whom he has fallen in
Using virtual reality software a computer points to the next victim
and Holden saves the nannies life and briefly captures the murderer
but doesn't recognize her and she escapes.
From there to the end is a cat and mouse game that would make
any moviegoer squirm in his or her seat if it were made into a film.
It is a riveting read and you can't put it down.
McFadden taps all of his experience into this novel: from his
childhood on a farm in Lafayette County to his vast hospital experience.
His mother still lives in Oxford. He graduated from University High
School and the University of Mississippi and his medical degree
was from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Except for
a brief stint in the U. S. Navy, he practiced mostly in Norfolk
and is Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery at Easter Virginia School
Upon retirement, McFadden had accumulated on year of vacation
time. "A full year at full pay," he smiled. He learned to ski and
ice skate. He has always been writer, but it has been for medical
journals. "Hermes' Viper" is the first of three books ready for
publication; one is a book of short stories.
"Hermes' Viper" gives the reader an insight into the miracles
of today's medicine and its shortcomings. It exposes some of the
abuses of the hospital system and yet explains operating procedures
in an exciting and dramatic way. You come away exposed to McFadden's
philosophy that makes the reader question such things as beliefs.
The man works on your brain in more ways than on and as he says,
"your universe is between your ears."
"Hermes' Viper" is the first of three books to be published by
I can't wait for the next.
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