“Besides, it was totally legal, so the only crime they might be committing could be construed as avarice. I told him I agreed, but it was still macabre.”― Gene Rontal, A Pre-existing Condition
💉I received an e-Book of this story in exchange for a fair review!💉
A Pre-existing Condition (2021) follows Doctor Ben Dailey, a surgeon with close ties to Detroit’s police force who often finds himself involved (albeit reluctantly) in homicide cases due to his professional expertise. When he fails to save the life of one of his former patients, a woman named Sandra Wells, he finds himself drawn into an elaborate web-work of criminality extending into the upper echelons of the city’s elite.
As one might expect, the circumstances surrounding Sandra’s death are mysterious and far from straightforward. As Dailey and members of Detroit’s police investigate, clues and details come to light suggesting a plot of corruption and greed that runs deep. The narrative unfurls from the victim and ripples throughout the city, uncovering a scheme the duo of main leads hadn’t anticipated or prepared for.
Ben and his closest police associate, George Sennett, are interesting characters, and the camaraderie between the two was well-written and believable. The extended cast beyond these two leads are solidly written too, and the identity of the main villains were kept closely guarded until the final third, which can sometimes be quite tricky to do.
It was clear from the very start of the narrative that author Rontal has both extensive personal experience in this career, and likely with the city of Detroit itself. His familiarity with both added a layer of authenticity to the story, which I appreciated. Medical jargon factored into the plot pretty frequently, but I think for the most part, Rontal explained it very well, without becoming too bogged down in details and derailing the plot. This is quite a fine skill in my opinion, as oftentimes this technical language can become incredibly overwhelming.
As for the plot itself, I thought it was interesting and compelling overall. The central mystery of Sandra Wells’ death unfurled in an organic way, and expanded into a larger scale plot of greed and corruption, as these stories so often do. It constantly kept me on my toes with fresh, unpredictable developments as new information was brought to light. I liked seeing the story flesh out and expand in scope with each new piece of evidence the pair gleaned.
There were a couple of problems I had, though. I did think that towards the end, the story became a little rushed. There was a lot of build-up to this sprawling, grandiose scheme involving certain movers and shakers in the city, but the conclusion sort of fizzled out rather than ending with the bang I’d been expecting, in relation to the build-up. There was also a minor plot development in the closing pages, directly relating to Dailey’s personal life, that felt a little out of left field for me. Also, occasionally, other characters would make remarks about what a big deal Dailey was, and for me this felt somewhat contrived – it seemed a little bit like everyone in the city had caught wind of this cavalier maverick.
One other thing that wasn’t to my taste is that on quite a few occasions Rontal had a habit of describing what the characters were saying rather than just having them say it. Dailey would describe what was being said to him, instead of the scene being depicted in situ, even as it was taking place on the page. This sometimes took me out of the action, in a manner. I do understand not wanting to go too dialogue heavy, as that can also be an issue, but in certain scenes this slowed down the tempo of the plot, in my opinion.
To be honest, although I watch a lot of films and television shows in the crime-cum-mystery genre, I haven’t actually read too many books, unless they are horror & thriller adjacent, like Thomas Harrison’s Hannibal (1981 to 2006) series. It was quite refreshing reading a book in a genre I’m largely unfamiliar with, as one of my goals for this year was to read more outside of the standard horror/thriller fare I typically choose.
All things taken into account, this is an engaging crime mystery with solidly written characters and an intriguing plotline. Some minor issues hold this back slightly for me, but it held my interest from start to finish; the central whodunit never felt predictable, and did keep me guessing for the majority of the book. I enjoyed this story and its characters, and certainly wouldn’t be against revisiting them sometime in the future.
VERDICT: I know that this is just the first of crime-mystery adventures of Ben Dailey that Gene Rontal is working on, and I for one would be interested in seeing more from this character and his friends and associates. A Pre-existing Condition is a well-told narrative, and establishes a strong cast of characters for future instalments.
It’s a⭐⭐⭐💫/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer. I also want to say a humongous thank you to Gene Rontal for providing a copy and giving me the chance to read and review it. Please consider following his author Instagram page here; @generontalbooks, and find his personal website down below!
Title(s): A Pre-existing Condition
Author(s): Gene Rontal
Publisher(s): Camel Press
Original Publication Date: 12th January, 2021
Page Count: 222 pages
Format Read: Digital
Advance Review Copy (Y/N): Y