Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Dissecting Bluff City

A serial killer cuts a swath through Memphis in A. Scott Pearson’s second medical thriller

Dr. Eli Branch has his hands full once more. The protagonist of A. Scott Pearson’s first novel, Rupture, returns in Public Anatomy to puzzle his way through a macabre series of murders. Branch is down on his luck, still recovering from the physical and emotional wounds of his first adventure, when the worlds of twenty-first-century and sixteenth-century medicine collide, putting him in danger all over again. A serial killer known as The Organist is carving up doctors and nurses all over Memphis, and Branch seems to be the only person capable of stopping the mayhem.

Pearson, a member of the surgical faculty at Vanderbilt University, is a native of West Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. He combines his medical and Memphis experiences to create Branch’s world, a place of both physical and emotional heat that keeps the good doctor and his associates on the scalpel’s edge of peril. In Rupture, Branch took on an unethical biotech company. In Public Anatomy he begins by investigating the hazards of robotic surgery, the modern wonder that has reduced both patient discomfort and risk. Or has it? When federal agents come looking for help in the investigation of an untimely death during a robotic operation, Branch is at first skeptical: “All you have told me is there have been two deaths during surgery by the same surgeon. What am I supposed to do with that?” What they expect is for Branch to figure out their sticky little problem once more.

Branch is soon sidetracked from his robotics investigation by wisecracking detective Nate “The Lip” Lipsky, another return character. Lipsky needs help solving the gruesome murder of a nurse anesthetist. The sensational crime involves the removal and, most peculiarly, the drawing of a little-known bone. When a second victim, also a medical professional, is similarly relieved of a body part, Branch realizes that the killer is under the influence of a rare anatomy text, a 1543 treatise titled The Fabric of the Human Body. But what, if anything, do The Organist’s ritualistic murders have in common with the robotic surgery gone wrong? Branch has lots of work to do, and very little time in which to do it.

Pearson has packed all the usual thriller elements into Public Anatomy—a beautiful woman and broken family plague Branch’s past and present, the smart-mouth detective has a heart of gold, and the good guys aren’t always who they seem. In short, there’s a lot happening in Memphis that has nothing to do with the blues or pork ribs, and Pearson has a fine time dissecting it all.

A. Scott Pearson will discuss and sign copies of Public Anatomy at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Brentwood on March 9 at 7 p.m., at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis on March 19 at 1 p.m., and at Mysteries & More in Nashville on March 26 at 3 p.m.