The Dissector, by L. L. Spriggs, is medical school mystery that will make most readers think twice the next time they see their doctor.
Dr. Sarah Whitley is ecstatic when she’s hired as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy in a prestigious medical school in New Orleans. Soon she learns that not everything is as it seems. When Sarah was a student she admired her professors. Now that she witnesses what happens behind the scenes, she starts questioning the motives, qualifications, and morals of those she teaches with. When Sarah is asked to help out in the morgue she learns things that she wishes she didn’t know, but she can’t stop herself from finding out more.
The premise is intriguing and the novel starts off with an eerie feeling. “The elevator lobby is lined with glass cabinets containing shelf-upon-shelf of dead babies in jars.” This description puts the reader on edge.
Writing a story centered solely on the main character’s profession is a risk. Sarah is a workaholic and most of her days are spent on campus and in the evenings she’s preparing for the following day. Luckily for Spriggs not many readers have taught at a medical school or have worked in a morgue. Most readers will find the details of Sarah’s job interesting. It’s like when you drive past a car accident and you can’t stop yourself from looking even though you’re not sure you can handle what you’ll see. This interest helps keep the reader engaged in the story. The glimpses into the grotesque fascinate and appall us at the same time and are hard to resist.
At times, though, Spriggs slips into recounting the mundane aspects of Sarah’s job, such as preparing lectures. While these details are pertinent to Sarah’s character, some of these sections could have been trimmed since they don’t necessarily move the plot along and read more like filler. Even the most interesting jobs are still jobs at the end of the day and providing too much detail about the actual work can bog down the pacing, pulling the reader out of the story.
There’s a wide variety of characters in this story, which rings true for most work places and many readers will be able to relate to this. Dr. Roberts, the Head of the Anatomy Department, has a strong presence in the story, even though he’s not around much. It doesn’t take Sarah long to figure out everyone is terrified of him. However, figuring out why everyone is so scared may not be in her best interest. Sarah, though, is the type of person who has to know and who has to try to make things right no matter what. Her curiosity and snooping puts the reader in the hot seat right along with Sarah. Sometimes it’s hard not to squirm while reading, hoping for the best, but dreading the worst.
As the reader starts to figure things out, there’s a sense of urgency to see what’s going to happen. What does happen is completely shocking and you may have to read a couple of lines twice to make sure things actually happened the way it did. The reader may agree or disagree with the ending, but there’s one thing for sure, the reader won’t forget it. The Dissector is a solid debut by the author.
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