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Stronger than Death    by Manda Scott order for
Stronger than Death
by Manda Scott
Order:  USA  Can
Crime Line, 2000 (1999)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the 3rd of the Kellen Stewart mysteries, following Hen's Teeth and Night Mares. This time around, Kellen struggles to understand the motivation behind serial killings of fellow physicians, all of whom had some connection to a scandalous pilot study of a drug that did a great deal of harm. Kellen's close friend Lee was involved unknowingly, and lost her hope of a surgical career through her protests. Now she's under suspicion of murder, but won't talk about it.

The suspense is strong, from the initial frightening cliffhanger of a climb to discover a friend's body to the final confrontation with a killer on the same spot. The characters have depth and passion - for their professions, their sports and their independence. There is also a depth of knowledge and research, built into the descriptions of rock climbing, of the hospital environment, and of clinical trials, as well as beautifully conveyed details of Kellen's application of guided imagery to palliative care.

As usual, Manda Scott is unafraid to take on the gritty issues - in this case abuse of clinical trials, and treatment of the dying - and does so in the context of engaging characters who feel strongly about what they do; even the killer is oddly sympathetic this time, as is the dogged policeman MacDonald who is frequently at odd with Kellen. If you haven't tried this series or this author yet, they're well worth your time.

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