4 out of 4 stars
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Inborn Error is a skillfully designed medical thriller building up on the old nature-versus-nurture debate. Bruce R. Gilbert uses his lifelong experience in urology and reproductive medicine to write a novel full of challenging topics, excellent twists and turns and an explosive climax.
In 1995, Dr. Barry Gifford is attacked in the parking lot of the Medical Faculty Practice Building. Before collapsing into unconsciousness, he overhears a man and a woman saying they were after Bob Ludlow’s chart and research files. To understand what has just happened, we have to travel back in time to the moment of Bob’s birth.
In 1955, Robert Ludlow becomes a father of triplets. He is the chairman of a highly profitable company and a respected member of the community. On the night of the delivery, a business meeting prevents him from reaching Bayside Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. Unfortunately, his wife dies during childbirth because of internal bleeding. He soon learns that two of his babies were born with a genetic anomaly. Such a thing is unconceivable for Mr. Ludlow who simply cannot tolerate imperfection. He decides to give up his two babies to Bayside Children’s Home. To appease his conscience, he appoints Orin Barrow, the sleek director of the orphanage, as the trustee of the children’s generous funds.
Unaware of each other’s existence, the three Ludlow children grow up in different circumstances. The gripping storyline follows them through the ups and downs in their life’s journey. The author does an amazing job in making all three of them credible and complex characters. Bob Ludlow benefits from the advantages of a privileged world. He has many servants to care for him, but no father around. Dexter Brunswick passes through very difficult times at the orphanage where his anomaly brings him the label of “devil’s child”. Perhaps the luckiest is Kevin O’Brien who is adopted by a caring nurse and enjoys the affectionate love of a wonderful family. When they meet again, they will be dragged into a deadly game of revenge and survival.
Bruce R. Gilbert poignantly tackles stringent issues affecting the doctor-patient relationship. His intention is to raise people’s awareness with respect to the danger posed by a paternalistic type of medicine. Bob and Debra Ludlow suffer from an extreme dearth of information about their medical problems and are forced to endure humiliating and painful tests with little or no explanation. The author also sounds the alarm when it comes to genetic experiments. He wants to send the message that no breakthrough in science or dreamlike material profit could justify a lack of respect for human life or any form of illegal testing.
Nowhere in the novel did I find the medical terminology too dry or boring. On the contrary, I have learnt many things I had no idea about before. For example, Robert Ludlow’s obsessive behavior of having everything fit in with his standards of perfection is called atelophobia in psychology. If his disease had been diagnosed and treated in time, he could have accepted his children. Likewise, I have learnt that the “runt syndrome” is a deficiency in love and caring which results in stunting of growth and development. Social psychologists study the “cohort effects” or the environmental factors differently affecting the development of unique personalities in polyzygotic siblings who grow up apart from each other. Such information is naturally introduced here and there in the text for us to grasp the meaning of the characters’ actions. In this way, we could easily understand Dexter’s complete lack of empathy for others and narcissistic personality.
The simple, incisive writing style is doubled by a perfect choice of narrative strategy. There is an interesting blending of first and third person perspectives. At times, the use of flashbacks and third-person narrative provides us with more information than that of the first-person narrator. Whenever Barry Gifford assumes the role of storyteller, the plot gains in suspense and mystery. The novel is a genuine page-turner which keeps us tuned in up to the unpredictable ending. Due to its exciting plot and professional editing, I am giving Bruce R. Gilbert’s Inborn Error a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I am recommending it to all those interested in reading a medical psychological thriller based on thought-provoking ideas, deeply buried family secrets, scientific discoveries, wickedly planned conspiracies and cold-blooded murder.
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