This book was the equivalent of a short mystery collection where nearly every story was entitled “The Butler Did It.” I haven’t seen the Netflix series this inspired, but I have to imagine it’s better if only because it would HAVE to flesh out the stories of the patients and doctors contained here – each medical mystery is about two to four pages long, and there’s simply not enough material per story to support a half hour episode. Hell, there’s not even enough time for the reader to get invested in the actual mystery before it’s solved.
We get introduced to each patient in a cursory fashion (and weirdly, the book departs from the medical writing convention of giving patients pseudonyms – reading this felt a bit like the scene from Chasing Amy where Joey Lauren Adams’s friends notice she is describing her boyfriend obliquely and accuse her of “playing the pronoun game”) at the onset of their issues, sometimes with a feint toward a more conventional explanation for their symptoms, and then boom, here’s the actual diagnosis. In one case, the explanation was a medication side effect in a drug the patient didn’t disclose to their doctor.
I work in pediatric ophthalmology, and one of the things that we see a lot of is papilledema (swollen optic nerves) which can be a sign of increased intracranial pressure (bad news) and one of the telltale signs is pulsatile tinnitus (rhythmic whooshing in your ears). One of the cases involves a patient with headaches and other symptoms that have the doctors stumped until one asks “do you hear your heartbeat in your ears?” One: that’s poor narrative structure. We don’t have a hope of making the connection because the symptom is never brought up until the doctor asks. Two: it’s borderline irresponsible that the book notes that pulsatile tinnitus is nothing to worry about and present for many without symptoms. Sure, you can have it and not have anything wrong, but if you do have it you ABSOLUTELY should have it looked at.
I might check this series out, but it was an unsatisfying book.