Book Review: Dr. Vigilante by Alberto Hazan
This well-crafted thriller had it all: action, drama, human suffering and romance.
Sharon, a social worker newly arrived from Indiana, is unprepared for the busy pace of a New York City ER inundated with everyday domestic violence and an escalating spate of hate crimes perpetrated by a neo-Nazi group. While her new colleagues don’t expect her to last the week, she shows perseverance and dedication to her profession, quickly learning the tricks of the trade and earning respect as a valued member of the staff.
Relatable and honest, we support Sharon's decisions as she navigates the minefield of relationships running hot and cold in the hospital. She is a great heroine with a big heart, quick wit and admirable patience.
Robert, who by day works as one of the ER doctors (though Hazan withholds his identity so we don’t know which doctor he is), is a highly-skilled vigilante by night, targeting psychopaths whose violent attacks leave badly beaten and incapacitated victims in his ER. Robert’s double life comes to a head when he struggles to maintain his gruff exterior in the ER amidst budding feelings for the new social worker.
As the plot develops, Hazan depicts Sharon's changing interaction and feelings towards the various doctors, but doesn't let us in on which doctor Robert is until late in the story. Though I guessed correctly, I wasn't entirely sure, so Robert's identity was hidden well and created a nice twist in the story.
This book is more than just your usual thriller. The novel offers statistics on domestic violence, child abuse and rape and showed the physical and mental implications of these attacks on the victims as well as on ER staff, government infrastructures and society at large. It raises questions about psychopaths (defined as having a lack of remorse), rehabilitation and social work, and the inherent nature of people – good versus evil.
I enjoyed the Buddhist angle when Sharon and Robert discuss Buddha’s philosophical teachings about the relationship between human life and suffering, and the benefits of freeing yourself from relationships and worldly attachments.
In conclusion, Dr. Hazan's blend of fiction and truth, vigilantism and liberal ideals, and challenging social stereotypes coupled with a quick-paced, engaging plot made Dr. Vigilante an outstanding thriller.