Picks and Pans Review: Vital Signs

updated 02/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Robin Cook

Dr. Cook begins his latest medical chase not in cold corridors but in a warm body-specifically, inside one Rebecca Ziegler's fallopian tubes. This time the paranoia has an up-to-the-minute focus: the mini-industry that supports itself treating infertile couples. What if...what if...these valiant men and women in white weren't really trying to help you conceive, but...ohmygod!

Fortunately for its clientele, one of the Boston Women's Clinic's most devoted patients is pediatrician Marissa Blumenthal, the medic-sleuth of Cook's Outbreak (1987).

Now, given her detective track record, when Marissa begins to suspect in-vitro evil, wouldn't you think her husband would go along with her suspicions? But no, the remote Robert Buchanan chalks it all up to rampaging hormones! Besides, Robert, never a man to waste a penny, is getting irritated by the rising costs of conception.

When Marissa finds a sympathetic ear in Wendy Wilson, a med-school pal who has the same fertility problem, the two raid the clinic's computer files—then head for Australia, where a sister clinic is based.

Up until this point. Vital Signs is a characteristically fast-paced, leaden-prosed Cook effort. In Sydney, then Hong Kong, the action becomes so improbable that one suspects the author was simply trying to justify his overseas expenses.

The reader will, of course, read on—Cook has established his premise so skillfully, a big payoff seems guaranteed—but this is one of those guarantees that isn't worth the paper it's written on. Five minutes after finishing Vital Signs, you'll be hard-pressed to remember the ending. (Putnam. $21.95)

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