The past comes rearing up to bite the next generation when a son digs too deep into his family's past.... Martin Firestone can't figure why his father, the eccentric painter Leo Firestone, is throwing a fit. All Martin did was tell his dad he'd been accepted to medical school.
Then, Leo tells Martin a story about his own father, Dr. Samuel Firestone, an extraordinarily gifted doctor and a living legend in the small city of Hobart, NJ, but a man with a serious character flaw. During the summer of 1943, while Leo worked as Samuel's extern, he witnessed some highly questionable behavior. Illegal abortions, supplying heroin to an addict, black-market pharmaceuticals, babies sold to adoptive parents - all in a day's work for Samuel Firestone, M.D.
When Leo decided his father was covering up a murder, he and his girlfriend, stage-struck Harmony, followed a trail of clues into the Fleischmann Scrapyard. There, they ran afoul of old Oscar Fleischmann, Samuel's longtime nemesis. By the time Leo realized he and Harmony were in far over their sixteen-year-old heads, it was too late to call off the investigation.
But there are loose threads in Leo's story. Martin picks them up, and sixty years after the fact, goes snooping in Hobart. And like his father, he comes away with a whole lot more junk than he'd bargained for.
Local mystery writer and retired physician Larry Karp has won many fans with his Music Box Mystery series, starring Dr. Thomas Purdue as a venturesome sleuth and music-box fanatic. Most writers would happily settle into such a successful niche - but instead, Karp's newest novel is a complete departure from the Music Box series. It's also some of the best work he has done.
Set in flashback during the World War II years, ""First, Do No Harm"" is a story of family secrets stumbled upon by young Martin Firestone, a computer
whiz who is ready to change careers. Surprisingly, Martin's decision to enter medical school (as his grandfather did) has just been greeted with
violent disapproval from his father, the eminent painter Leo Firestone. Most parents would be pleased; why is Leo so upset?
What follows is a lengthy father-to-son late-night confessional, as Leo knocks back several Manhattans and launches his narrative. Martin and the reader go back in time to the summer of 1943, when the 16-year-old Leo was taken on as a medical apprentice (an ""extern"") by his busy physician father, Dr. Samuel Firestone. A legend in his New Jersey community, Dr. Firestone whisks Leo from patient to patient, demonstrating an almost preternatural
skill at diagnosis, treatment and human relations.
Young Leo discovers firsthand how admirable, and how beloved, his father is - but he also uncovers an ethical quagmire: His father is involved in illegal abortions and adoptions, dispensing narcotics and black-market drugs, perhaps even a coverup for a murder. Deeply troubled, the 16-year-old and his girlfriend investigate some of these issues, ending up in the junkyard of thefoul-mouthed, malicious Oscar Fleishmann. Oscar, one of the most repellent characters in contemporary fiction, turns out to be
trafficking in black-market scrap metal (these were the war years, remember), and Leo ends up in a heap of trouble.
There's more, considerably more, to this saga, some of it unearthed by Leo's son Martin (who senses some gaps in his father's narrative). It's all written at a white-hot emotional pitch with an author whose medical expertise and ear for dialogue are both unerring. ""First, Do No Harm"" grabs the reader in a rigor-mortis grip that doesn't let up until the last page's final revelations. -- Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times