Monday, November 2, 2009

Review: Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

In a word -- twisted.

If you remember, I hosted a book giveaway for Beat the Reaper earlier this month. I hope that all of my winners have received their copies, because I can't wait to chat about this one!

Beat the Reaper is a day in the life of Dr. Peter Brown -- only, that's not his real name. It's the name he was given by WITSEC, otherwise known as the Witness Protection Program. We learn what happened in Peter's life to lead him to this day, probably the worst day of his life.

To anyone following along, I'm from New Jersey. Peter Brown grew up in West Orange, and, surprise surprise, gets involved with the mob (the author takes the mob thing so over the top, it can't help but be hilarious). I don't know how Josh Bazell does it, but even though this guy could snap a man's neck without blinking, and has the most sarcastic pain-in-the-ass attitude on the planet, I couldn't help but root for the guy!

Josh Bazell has a BA in literature from Brown and an MD from Columbia. Penned during his medical residency, Beat the Reaper, blends Bazell's two talents perfectly. Throughout the book, there are footnotes, which sound as if they could be distracting to the rhythm and flow of the book, but they aren't. Instead, they feel like "asides" from a play, when an actor speaks directly to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, while staying in character. Beat the Reaper is being made into a movie with Leo DiCaprio. I really hope they don't lose this nuance of the story.

Beat the Reaper has been described by critics as a cross between Tarantino films and Gray's Anatomy. In my mind, it's a little more House, and way more Tarantino - lots of blood, lots of violence, and lots of great one-liners. All you need is Harvey Keitel. It's twisted, but it's smart, too. I had a hard time putting this one down.

Good thing there's going to be a sequel!

First line (because it's my new thing):
"So, I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me!"

For more on Beat the Reaper, visit Hachette Book Group's website, where you can read excepts, about the author and find the Reader's Group Guide.

About the Book:
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316032212
ISBN-13: 978-0316032216

More reviews:
NY Times
Entertainment Weekly

A review copy of Beat the Reaper was furnished by Hachette Book Group.


Diane said...

I really like Beat the Reaper; glad to hear about a sequel.

Greg Zimmerman said...

Great review - thanks! I have BtR on my shelf, and just moved it up my priority stack based on your comments. Didn't know it was being made into a movie, but that's exciting!


Alison said...

Like all books, there are haters of Beat the Reaper. I hesitated to read it myself, but once I read the first 5 pages, I knew it was something I could get into.

This is one of the reasons I LOVE that publishers put up Open Book (book excerpts) on their websites. I can usually tell within the first few pages if I'm going to love a book. There are a few exceptions (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- it took me 99 pages to get into it, and I'm really glad I did)

To all of my readers who won a copy of Beat the Reaper -- let me know if you've gotten you copy and post to let me know what you think!!

christine said...

I am so curious about this book. Now that you mentioned Harvey Keitel - definitely will be looking this one up!

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