The last thing plastic surgery resident Jackson Maebry wants at the end of a long day in the operating room is a call to the ER. Once he gets there, what he finds is worse than his most hellish imaginings: a young woman, beaten and burned almost beyond recognition, a trauma case as terrible as any he has ever seen. What Jackson's colleagues don't know is that the victim, Allie, is actually his lover.
With Allie in a coma, Jackson keeps their relationship quiet and takes part in her reconstruction, a complicated and grueling set of procedures that only the most skilled specialists can perform. But as he and the other doctors struggle to put her back together, the fractures in Jackson's own life begin to break apart dramatically. When the San Francisco Police Department's investigation of the attack leads to his door, Jackson knows the truth can no longer be suppressed.
Ghost Image is an expertly plotted, chillingly vivid, and wholly absorbing mystery, signaling the debut of an unforgettable new voice in the genre. Taking readers inside the operating room and literally under the skin of its patients, it's a story that will appeal to those fascinated by medicine and forensics. It is also a story -- like all classic crime novels -- about guilt and innocence, good and evil. But, above all, it is a story of love -- the kind of love that might prove deadly, or that might just save your soul.
A gallery of distinctive supporting characters and lucid, full-bodied prose distinguish the debut novel of former presidential speechwriter Gilder. San Francisco plastic surgeon Jackson Maebry undertakes the emergency treatment of a young woman who has been severely beaten and burned, only to realize that the victim is his lover, Allie. Wanting to stay near her during recovery, Jackson keeps their relationship a secret from both his mentor, imperious chief of surgery Peter Brandt, and police detective Rossi, a black Vietnam vet with a borderline addiction to nasal spray. Allie develops amnesia, complicating the search for her assailant, but eventually Jackson's secret comes out, to his detriment. His concealment of his relationship to Allie makes him a suspect in Rossi's eyes, but quirky attorney Manny Lucasian manages to keep him out of jail. Jackson convinces his former girlfriend, Krista, a nurse, to keep an eye on Allie, but Krista has ulterior motives. He learns some unsettling facts about Allie's past, both distant and recent, and must contend with the unwanted advances of Brandt's alcoholic wife. The story loses steam and focus near the midpoint, but a couple of suspicious deaths speed it to a climax; believable scenes of plastic surgery add an extra layer of chills and interest. The bland and unsympathetic Jackson makes a poor first-person protagonist, but Gilder offers an interesting detour around nearly every corner.