Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 2 by Deven Greene Genre: Medical Thriller
Dr. Erica Rosen’s world is turned upside down after a suicide bomber explodes amidst a large crowd entering Oracle Park baseball stadium, near her San Francisco home. Many are killed or injured, and police have no leads in solving the case.
Erica becomes involved after a teacher of young autistic men calls her. The teacher believes her students are involved in the bombing but is afraid to contact law enforcement. She reaches out to Erica, who has experience with special needs children.
Erica arrives at the school but finds the police already there and a young autistic man doing a jigsaw puzzle, oblivious to his murdered teacher on the floor. The young man has information about the mastermind behind the bombing but has limited ability to speak. Erica is determined to protect him, prevent further bombings, and find his missing classmates.
I remember that afternoon in August, the first time I saw the video of people walking slowly, talking, and laughing, as they entered San Francisco’s Oracle Park baseball stadium. Then a fiery flash. I’ll never forget the slender arm, a silver bracelet around the wrist, flying through the smoke and debris. This was followed by images of dead bodies, bloodied people crying, some being comforted, some comforting others. My assistant, Martha, showed it to me on her cell phone when I was in between patients in the pediatrics clinic at UCSF, where I am director. Martha dabbed tears from her eyes as I watched.
Looking around, I noticed other doctors and staff studying their cell phones. Over the next few minutes, people spoke in hushed tones, put away their phones, then peeled away to finish the day’s work.
I called Lim, my husband of two months, to make sure he was okay, even though he was at work miles away from the disaster. Then I called my best friend, Daisy Wong. I knew she wasn’t a baseball fan, and the probability of her being at the game was close to zero, but during times of danger, one’s mind can imagine all sorts of improbabilities. I was glad when she answered her phone and assured me she’d been home all day as usual, remotely working at her job as a computer programmer.
For the remainder of the day, the clinic atmosphere was subdued as gloom settled in the hallways, work areas, and exam rooms, stamping out the usual noisy cheerfulness exuded by the staff. When I’d finally seen my last patient, instead of catching up on paperwork as was my custom, I looked forward to spending a quiet night at home, finding solace with my new husband. After all, the explosion had taken place at the Willie Mays Gate of Oracle Park, only a few blocks from our third-floor condominium. Lim and I had chosen our unit in the new, modern building for its view of the San Francisco Bay, proximity to interesting shops and restaurants, and relatively low crime rate.
That evening, upon entering my building, I was doubly glad that a passcode was required to open the main door. Although that didn’t ensure complete security, it gave me a modicum of peace of mind. In the lobby, a neighbor told me one of the residents, a young man I knew only enough to smile at and greet should our paths cross, had been injured in the blast. Fortunately he’d suffered only a laceration on his arm from flying debris and was expected to make a full recovery. As I took the stairs up to my unit, I imagined the horror he must have felt in the moments following the explosion. Although his arm would probably heal, I wondered if his psyche ever would.
For the rest of the evening, Lim and I were glued to the TV news as we commiserated over the disaster that had taken place in our neighborhood, thankful we had escaped unscathed. Like most others, we assumed that, like 9/11, it was the work of Islamic terrorists and awaited the announcement by a group proudly claiming responsibility.
I was glad that even though the event took place close to my home, I wasn’t directly affected. Nevertheless, I was nervous walking around my neighborhood and had become a bit obsessed, constantly scrolling through the news on my phone, looking for updates about the bombing. Although I knew people who knew people who were killed, I didn’t personally know anyone who had suffered serious physical harm from the explosion. A few days after the incident, I’d spoken to my neighbor who had been injured and sensed he was deeply disturbed, much more so than he let on. Six days after the bombing, that was the extent of my thoughts about the subject. Until I received a phone call from Brandy Monroe.
Unnatural Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1
"A fascinating and thought-providing medical thriller about the ethical dilemmas posed by genetic manipulation."
Dr. Erica Rosen is perplexed when she sees a young Chinese girl with blue eyes in her San Francisco pediatrics clinic. The girl's mother, Ting, is secretive, and Erica suspects she has entered the country illegally. Later, Erica encounters Ting's son and discovers he has an unusual mutation. Erica learns that Ting's children underwent embryonic stem cell gene editing as part of a secret Chinese government-run program.
The Chinese government wants to murder Ting's son to prevent others from learning about his unusual mutation and the secret gene-editing program. At Ting's urging, Erica heads to China to expose the program and rescue the infant Ting was forced to leave behind, all while attempting to evade the watchful eye of the Chinese government.
“Hello, Ms. Chen,” I said consulting the clipboard. “I’m Dr. Rosen.”
I gazed around the familiar room with torn posters of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Little Mermaid, and Minions. The two adult-size chairs were empty. An attractive, thin young Asian woman with short hair sat in one of the little chairs, a small child on her lap, with its face buried in her chest. The child had straight shoulder length shiny black hair. Damn. Martha didn’t get the kid stripped down to her underwear. Only took her shoes and socks off.
The woman seemed nervous, unable to speak for a few seconds. When she finally spoke, it was with a heavy Chinese accent. “This Wang Shu, Doctor. I Ting, his mother.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I said, happy my roommate, Daisy, had exposed me to her parents and their heavy Mandarin accents countless times. Over the years, I had developed an ear for understanding their speech.
“Hello, Wang Shu,” I said in my winning pediatrician’s voice, smiling. “How are you today?”
The child didn’t move. “He shy,” Ting said.
Knowing Asians pronounce “he” and “she” the same in their native tongue, the inappropriate gender reference didn’t surprise me.
“I understand you’re here today to have Wang Shu’s kindergarten physical form filled out.”
“Shi. Yes.” Ting reached into her purse and handed me a two-page form, folded in thirds.
I took a moment to examine the form. It looked familiar, resembling many I had filled out previously. I sat facing the computer and checked the EHR. Other than the patient’s name, age, address, and mother’s name, her chart was blank. It wasn’t unusual to have patients with no medical insurance. “Has Wang Shu had her vaccinations?” I asked.
“Shi, yes. Everything. He have very good medical care. The best.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Do you have some documentation?”
Ting looked at me blankly.
“Papers that list her vaccinations.”
“We come from China. He get them there. I not have papers, but I know he get everything. Very excellent medical care.”
“Wang Shu doesn’t start school for over a month. Can you have the information sent to you?”
“No. Not possible.”
“You must have shown documentation when you moved here. How long have you been in this country?”
“You speak English very well for someone who’s been here such a short time.”
“I study hard.”
“Since it was only two months ago, you must still have the documentation of vaccination you showed to pass the health inspection when you came here.”
“I not find it.”
“If you don’t get the documentation, we’ll need to revaccinate her. Without proof of vaccines, she can’t go to school.”
“Oh. He no like more vaccine. But no choice.”
This woman seemed intelligent, clearly educated enough to speak English and know about vaccines. But something didn’t seem right. “I have to ask you this,” I said in a gentle tone so as not to alarm her. “Did you enter the US illegally?”
Ting burst into tears.
I grabbed a tissue and handed it to her. “It’s okay. You can tell me. I won’t report you. But if you came here illegally, I’m going to insist that Wang Shu also have a TB test.”
“Okay, we not legal, but I know he not have TB,” Ting said, her tears now a slow trickle. “He very healthy, never around people with TB.”
“She still needs the test. I can’t put other children at risk.”
“No, no,” Ting said, still sniffling. “He have BCG vaccine.”
The BCG vaccine is given to protect people from TB in countries like China that have a high incidence of the disease. When a TB skin test is given to people who have had a BCG vaccine, the test is often falsely positive. I turned to the child.
“Now, Wang Shu, I have to examine you,” I said, wondering if the child understood a word I was saying. “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.”
I got up from my seat at the computer, picked up Wang Shu and placed her on the exam table. For the first time, her tiny face was exposed as she looked straight at me. Black hair cut into short, straight bangs across her forehead. Light olive skin. Typical Asian features, with a small nose and epicanthal folds in upper eyelids. I almost gasped. Light blue eyes. What I was seeing was not possible.
Fiction writer Deven Greene lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since childhood, Deven has been interested in science. After working as a biochemist, she went back to school and became a pathologist. When writing fiction, the author usually incorporates elements of medicine or science. Deven has penned several short stories. Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1 is the first novel the author has published. Her recently completed novel, Unwitting, is the second novel in the trilogy. She is currently completing the third novel of the trilogy, Unforeseen.
Describe the first two books of the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. Why should anyone read them?
Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1 introduces the main character, Erica Rosen. Erica is a young San Francisco pediatrician who sees a five-year-old girl brought into the clinic to have her kindergarten physical form filled out. The child and her mother are Chinese, and Erica is struck by the fact that the girl has blue eyes. Erica discovers the mystery behind those eyes—the girl is the product of human embryonic stem cell gene editing secretly performed by the Chinese government. A series of events sends Erica to China to find the infant the mother was forced to leave behind and expose the Chinese genetic engineering program to the world so it will be shut down.
In Unwitting, book 2 of the trilogy, the main characters introduced in Book 1 are involved, and some of their difficulties introduced in book 1 continue. In addition, Erica finds herself at the center of a new problem. A suicide bomber detonates near her home, and the FBI cannot identify the perpetrator. A teacher of young autistic men reaches out to Erica for help, telling Erica the bomber was one of her students who she suspects was trained to be an unwitting suicide bomber. She believes the rest of her students were similarly trained. Erica is thrust into the hunt for the man behind the bombings, taking one of the autistic students under her wing and protecting him while trying to learn what he knows despite his communication difficulties.
I hope readers will not only enjoy the stories but will learn things along the way. In Unnatural, the reader will travel from San Francisco to China and will learn about human genetic engineering using CRISPER/Cas9, how it’s done, and some of its dangers.
I’m counting on readers becoming attached to the characters and their ongoing problems, so they will want to read Unwitting. There they will learn about autism and become familiar with Zaron, the autistic young man Erica watches over. He is severely disabled by his lack of communication and social skills. He is not like the verbal, accomplished high-functioning autistic people often featured in popular culture.
More is coming, as I am completing Unforeseen, book 3 of the trilogy.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
When I wrote Unnatural, there was an international agreement to prohibit human embryonic genetic engineering. For that reason, I thought there were no ongoing experiments like those described in my book. I was shocked when shortly after I’d finished the first draft of my novel, a Chinese scientist announced that he had secretly performed human embryonic gene editing. The first infants with the genetic changes he introduced were born days after his announcement. While the change he introduced wasn’t related to the genetic engineering performed in my novel, I was upset that the general type of secret experimentation serving as the foundation of my book had already been performed. It had even been done in the same country, China, I had chosen to base my story in. I sulked for a day, then got busy and included information about the recent real-world gene-editing in my book. In the end, I didn’t have to change much.
Unwitting revolves around Zaron, a young autistic man whom the protagonist, Erica Rosen, takes under her wing. If you read the book, you’ll see that it is dedicated to Aaron. Aaron is my adult son with autism who Zaron is based on. While Aaron was never involved in a plot to bomb people (not to my knowledge, anyway—he wouldn’t tell me if he was), I tried to imagine how he would react at each step of the writing. Many of the descriptions in the novel are taken directly from my experiences with Aaron. While Aaron has many isolated abilities, he remains dependent on caretakers. With no worries about politics, global warming, finances, or friends, I believe he is happy.
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