The Doctor by Annie Payne

Today I am sharing my thoughts on the brand new thriller from Annie Payne, The Doctor. I love a good thriller and this one was right up my street,. My thanks to publisher Avon for the advance copy via Netgalley. Here’s the all important info:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 25th May 2023
Publisher: Avon

About the Book

A new and gripping psychological thriller with a medical twist, perfect for fans of Harriet Tyce, B A Paris and Doctor Foster.

Care giver, life saver… or cold-blooded killer?

Running away from a past she’d rather forget, Doctor Alison Wilson has moved to a new town to take up the role of Medical Officer at failing hospital St Margaret’s.

Tasked with shaking things up, she quickly learns that things are worse than they initially seem: patient records are in disarray, staff morale is low, and there’s something afoot that she can’t quite put her finger on…

As Alison starts to dig into the hospital’s past, she gradually discovers a trail of lies that runs deeper and darker than she could have ever imagined.

There’s a cold-blooded killer in the hospital. And they’re hiding in plain sight…

My Thoughts

When you go into hospital, you do so trusting the Doctors and Nurses that work there to keep you safe from harm. That they have your best interests at heart and that their very purpose is to nurse you back to health, not rip that health away from you. It is very clear from the opening scene’s of The Doctor, that someone at St Margaret’s has a very different view on life – and death. And yet this is not the reason that stroke specialist, Alison Turner, is brought in as the new Medical Director. It is just one, well disguised, tragedy in a series of failings and issues that require her urgent attention. Issues that could end up costing her far more than her career.

I found that I grew to like Alison quite quickly. There are aspects to her character and her past that we don’t know initially, ones that add a layer of mystery to an already twisted story but, in spite of that, I found I trusted her. The author builds that trust with the reader really quickly, making you invested in both her fate and that of the hospital and its patients. It’s obvious from the beginning that she can’t be behind the nefarious act that is leading to loss of life, and the more we learn of her predecessor, the easier it is to form an opinion of what is really going on around the hospital. Whether that is the correct opinion, remains to be seen.

It’s fair to say that Alison faces no small amount of animosity and jealousy from her new colleagues, with very few seeming to be on her side. Whether it is professional jealousy, hatred of the person who has stepped into some very large, but ultimately dishonest shoes, or something far more sinister is unclear, but it was hard to get to like any of the other characters, with Alison left with few allies and suspicion cast on many of them as a possible source of the ill fate that befell her. She does find one very unlikely ally in local mechanic and one time emergency room patient, Mike Jenkins, who has his own reasons for hating the hospital staff and being distrustful of everyone who works there, and a its a pairing rich in chemistry, even if the course of their friendship is not entirely plain sailing.

There is a lot of tension throughout the book and a kind of unease that follows Alison around. I did guess some of the aspects of the story, and wonder at just why no-one else jumped to the more obvious conclusions that were there to be reached. But there there are a few moments of misdirection, and scenes that make you stop and reassess what is happening. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a patient at St Margarets, and the constant battle between the hard working care givers (mostly) and penny pinching executive committee, had a sense of all to believable authenticity about it. Thankfully this is all a work fiction, St Margarets is not a real hospital and, with a few notable and notorious exceptions, hospitals and those who work in them are all wonderful, caring, and dedicated professionals.

But for a story with mystery, suspense, misdirection and just a touch of blossoming romance mixed in, this is a fab read that held my attention right to the end. I wanted Alison to succeed, loved the heightening of tension towards the end, and found the conclusion satisfying, if over a touch quicker and more dramatically that I expected. Had I guessed whodunnit? Honestly, yes. Was I bothered? Not at all – I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by the author.

About the Author

Annie Payne spent most of her life as an NHS nurse, midwife and clinical network manager but now concentrates on writing full time. She has written extensively for television programmes such as The BillDoctors and Heartbeat under the name Candy Denman and has published a medical mystery series and novella under that name too.

Now she happily writes novels in a posh shed in the garden in between playing with her six grandchildren and walking her dog, Dennis the Cockapoo.

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