Published: 17/12/2013 17:58 - Updated: 17/12/2013 18:26

Top medical thrillers


NAIRN scientist David J. Godden has just published his first novel The Cure (Matador £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook), a medical thriller based around double-dealings in the field of medical research.

Here we take a look at some of our own favourite medical thrillers from screen and page.


In this long running show from NBC in the US, the crumpled Jack Klugman played the principled Medical Examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

Many of Quincy’s investigations would involve him in murder, creating the legacy that has led to modern day successors like CSI and the UK’s Silent Witness.

But over 148 episodes from 1976 to 1973, he also dealt with the effects of, among other things, airline safety, the dumping of toxic waste, Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, and even, in one memorably scare-mongering show, punk rock.


Former US Navy medic Robin Cook has established himself as the leading brand name when it comes to medical thrillers, basically doing for medicine what John Grisham does for the law.

Writing novels, he says, gives him the opportunity to get the public interested in subjects they might not have been previously aware of.

Genetic engineering, fertility treatment, medical malpractice and drug research are just some of the topics he has tackled along with organ harvesting. His novel Coma was filmed in 1978 with Geneviève Bujold, Michael Douglas and Richard Widmark heading the cast.


The director of the film version of Coma was arguably an even more successful medic turned writer.

Although his books featured subjects as diverse as pirates (Pirate Latitudes), sexual harassment (Disclosure), time travel (Timeline) and dinosaurs (Jurassic Park), Crichton also tackled medical matters in novels like The Andromoda Strain (a deadly micro-orgamism from space wipes out an Arizona town) and A Case of Need (an obstetrician is charged with causing the death of a woman following an illegal abortion). He also created popular US medical series ER.


Scotland’s own answer to Cook and Crichton is award-winning former Medical Research Council scientist McClure, whose books have been published in some 20 languages.

Several feature Dr Stephen Dunbar, a former Special Forces medic who becomes a sort of medical James Bond investigating unusual cases for a specialist government department.


Though better known now for his Brighton-set police procedurals starring Superintendent Roy Grace, his standalone chillers have taken on such topics as designer babies, the clash between alternative medicine and an ultra-rationalist plastic surgeon, transferring human consciousness and cryogenics, and in one even has an international pharmaceutical company possibly in league with the devil.

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