Oct 12, 2008

Black Flies by Shannon Burke

Black Flies by Shannon Burke is a masterpiece of characterization and plot. Burke, a former paramedic in Harlem, New York, weaves his disjointed plot through a series of in-depth characterizations and vivid event descriptions. He traces the steps rookie Ollie Cross takes as he tries to fit in with the Station 18 crew and still hold onto his dreams of medical school, and along the way he spirals out of control, only to emerge on the other side of a black hole with his first save and a sense of purpose.

Ollie is green according to the other paramedics in his unit, simply because he wants to save lives and is gung-ho about his job. Rutkovsky is assigned as his partner, and he's a hard-nosed paramedic with a military past. LaFontaine is the department nut, while Verdis is his foil, interested in following the book and attending each patient with courtesy and care. Hatsuru is often in the background with a medical text in his hand while they await the next call or are on lunch break, and Marmol and Rivett round out the rest of the crew.

Ollie joins the paramedic unit to gain experience while he studies for the MCATs, hoping to improve his scores and get into medical school. Amidst high crime rates, homelessness, and rampant drug use in the streets of Harlem, these medical professionals strive to save the lives of people some would say are unworthy of saving. This novel examines the struggle these paramedics face daily, regarding split-second decisions that could either save drug addicts who will only end up back on the street strung out or ending their misery by refusing to treat them. The moral imperative driving these paramedics to save lives is constantly tested on the streets.

One fateful event in the novel pushes one of these paramedics over the edge, causing him to lose everything, while leaving the remaining paramedics to rationalize his decision and examine their own moral compass to determine whether that decision is something they all agree with or something that casts a shadow over all of their medical decisions and actions. In a way this decision becomes like so many black flies hovering over Ollie and the rest of the station.

Check out the excerpts from Black Flies, here.

I want to thank Anna at Diary of an Eccentric for recommending this book. It was a great, fast paced read. I'm thinking about picking up Burke's other novel, Safelight.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric

25 comments:

Anna said...

I'm so glad you liked it! Now we can have a lunchtime discussion! :)

My review is here:
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com/2008/07/black-flies-by-shannon-burke.html

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Serena said...

I can't wait for the lunchtime discussion. I added the link to your review of the book; have you picked up his other book?

naida said...

This sounds good serena, great review.
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Serena said...

This book was fantastic. I guess you could say I read it in a 24-hour period beginning this past Saturday evening until about 1 am and then the next morning until football began...mind you there was sleep involved between those two reading sessions.

I would recommend this to anyone that doesn't get squeamish with crime scene shows and the like, but even then I think squeamish people would like this book, though they may have to read some scenes between their fingers.

Marie said...

Sounds like a great, faced-paced read :-)

Dar said...

Great review Serena! You've definitely got me interested in the book.

Serena said...

Dar and Marie: I hope the review got you interested. I should have an interview with the author coming up soon as well.

Dewey said...

Sounds gripping! Onto my Bookmooch wishlist it goes!

Serena said...

I'm glad to see others TBR piles are growing because of me... heh heh heh!

Ladytink_534 said...

You know, I've read plenty of books about all kinds of people in all kinds of jobs but I've never read about a paramedic before! It sounds interesting.

Thanks for the comment!

J. Kaye Oldner said...

Great review! Sounds like an enjoyable book.

Serena said...

J. Kaye: This is a good book.

LadyTink: This is my first book about a paramedic.

Anna said...

I haven't read Safelight yet, but I plan on it. Since we've missed two lunches, maybe it should be our afternoon bus ride discussion! :)

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Serena said...

what you not reading safelight?

Shana @ Literarily said...

Great review Serena. I think it's so cool that you and Anna like to read the same books. How fun.

Serena said...

Shana: Sometimes Anna and I love the same books, but other times we have different views of them and occasionally she will love a book I don't like at all.

April said...

This sounds like a really good book! I will have to keep my eye out for it!

Serena said...

April: It was really well written. i just picked up his first novel, Safelight, at the library, so I probably be reviewing that one as well.

windycindy said...

I had two male friends who were paramedics! The stories they told me. The main character sounds very interesting! Thanks for your take on his book. Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Sandra said...

I enjoyed your review. I love novels with medical themes, the more detailed the better. One way or another I will be reading this one.

Dixie said...

I can't wait to read this one.
Thanks for the review.


southrngal(at)gmail(dot)com

bookroomreviews said...

I haven't heard of this, but I really like medical themes too. you sold me with your review and the interview:)

Veens said...

This is exactly a genre i love :)

cool review and thanks for it!

Wrighty - said...

This was a very good review and I'm anxious to read this book. There are always medical books coming out but it doesn't seem that many of them are about paramedics. It sounds like an interesting and dangerous career.

blueviolet said...

I get the feeling that the writing style and the storyline purposely parallel each other and I think that's going to really lend itself to being a terrific read.
doot65{at}comcast[dot]net
Elizabeth