Note: This review was originally published at Red Adept Reviews on July 19, 2011.
Overall: 4 1/2 stars
Plot/Storyline: 4 3/4 stars
Having been sliced and diced by neurosurgeons several times in the last few years, the title of the book got my attention and piqued my interest. I'm glad it did. Operation Neurosurgeon was a marvelous story about the rise and fall of a fictional neurosurgeon in Nashville, Tennessee. It was really two stories in one. The central story was about Dr. Danny Tilson's career as a neurosurgeon, beginning with his surgical residency and going through his rise to become a top neurosurgeon. He was happily married to Sara, who bore him three daughters. Threaded throughout the narrative were fascinating behind-the-scenes action in the hospital operating room, where Dr. Tilson mended sick brains and backs. My favorite surgery was the one where a five-inch nail was removed from a man's skull (note to myself: never let my wife have a nail gun!).
Operation Neurosurgery was a cautionary tale of how one man's momentary lapse in judgment led to his downfall and the devastating effects on his family. Danny Tilson was a good man and a good doctor, but, as his attorney told him later, "A man's downfall comes from his crotch."
My only (slightly) negative comment is that the first third of the story moved fairly slowly, covering about twenty years, during which time Dr. Tilson advanced in his profession and raised a family. There wasn't much action, though I understand the author was using this time to develop her characters and set the stage for the drama that unfolded later.
The ending of the story was well done and was very satisfying. Instead of everything going to hell for Danny, there was at least some ray of hope for him at the end.
Characters: 5 stars
Although the story was largely plot-driven, there were several well-developed characters, some sympathetic, some not. Danny and Sara were a loving couple with three beautiful daughters. Sara gave up her own career to be with her children while Danny worked long hours at the office and the hospital.
Danny's best friend, Casey, stayed with him through good times and bad, at least partly motivated by his strong feelings for Danny's sister, Mary.
There were a number of earthshaking events in the lives of the Tilson family. The emotions registered by family members came across as realistic. The author did a splendid job of describing the family dynamics in times of crisis.
One of my favorite characters was Dakota, a Chesapeake Retriever who had a personality of his own. He was the kind of dog that any dog-lover would love to have - most of the time!
Writing style: 4 1/4 stars
The author's writing style was quite good, especially for a first novel, but it could have used a little more polish. As an example, her scenes often shifted abruptly between paragraphs with no separation or asterisks or other markers to indicate a scene shift or passage of time, so I had to mentally shift gears when this occurred.
I should mention that the author, Barbara Ebel, is a retired anesthesiologist, so I had no doubt of the accuracy of the surgery scenes. In a humorous touch, she cleverly wrote herself into one surgery, kind of like the cameo appearances of Alfred Hitchcock in his movies.
Editing: 3 3/4 stars
The book clearly needed an editor, since there were too many misspellings and punctuation errors to overlook. Misspellings were the usual culprits such as "it's" for "its," "loose" for "lose," and inconsistencies in spelling a character's name ("Henderson" and "Hendersen"). Punctuation errors were mainly missing commas and hyphens (e.g., "black robed judge").
But I have to say that the story was compelling enough that the typos weren't too distracting, more like minor annoyances.