The First Harm

A Medical Action Thriller

Fiction - Thriller - Medical
324 Pages
Reviewed on 01/26/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

Is it too early for me to say that The First Harm by Steven Piskula is the best medical thriller I’ve read this year? Perhaps…but it’s going to take a far more chilling and better-written novel than this one to supplant it. Firstly, too many medically-based thrillers are so heavy on medical jargon I end up skipping pages. Secondly, I rarely, if ever, read a 300-plus page in 2 days, but this one kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish! Now that’s my kind of novel, regardless of genre.

Picture if you will, a brilliant, but smug scientist hell-bent on saving mankind from succumbing to crippling old age by modifying weaknesses in our basic DNA. A noble mission, but getting the formula perfect is a challenge without being able to use humans. It’s also expensive and ultimately requires the use of nefarious methods. When Tanna, a first-year med student, spots an anomaly during a dissection and shares her discovery with her roommate, her world is turned upside down. Suddenly Tanna is on the run from a hired assassin out to silence her. Who wants her and Jason, her unexpected protector, dead?

With the skilled eye of an award-winning screenwriter, Steven Piskula takes Tanna, Jason, and readers on a thrilling motorcycle ride through traffic-clogged streets as the pair, now suspected of murder, race to get proof of their innocence into the hands of those who can exonerate them. Piskula makes it so easy to experience all the exciting action as if it were on the big screen. What a fabulous movie this would make! Marvelous visuals, snappy dialogue, and nasty characters contrast sharply with Tanna’s innocence and the burgeoning romance between Jason and Tanna. And then there is that clever twist at the end that lets you close The First Harm with a satisfied sigh. This is superb writing from a skilled author whom I am delighted to have discovered. So, as I asked at the beginning of this review, is it too soon to consider this the best medical thriller I’ve read this year? Don’t think so!

Alma Boucher

The First Harm is a medical thriller by Steven Piskula. Tanna Christensen is a first-year medical student at the Los Angeles campus of Southern California Science and Medicine. She could not finish her anatomy dissection and decided to break into the lab and try again. Tanna found a set of nerve branches in the cadaver that looked unfamiliar and took photos. She sends the pictures to her roommate for advice. The following day Tanna is suspended from the Human Gross Anatomy class by Dean Atwell. On her return to her residence, she finds her roommate's lifeless body in the bathtub. Tanna's discovery of the genetic disorder in the cadaver is related to her roommate's death, and Tanna's life is in danger. She must expose the masterminds behind the abnormalities before anyone else becomes a victim.

The plot in The First Harm is unique and planned and executed brilliantly by Steven Piskula. I was intrigued by the storyline from the beginning. It was fast-paced and full of action; the twists and turns made for a roller coaster ride. I never knew what to expect next. The suspense was killing me and keeping me on edge. It is a page-turner following Tanna's search for the truth and the action she encountered. Various characters and their roles were woven together to ensure the success of this story; they are robust and well developed. Everyone had a part in this excellent medical thriller. The First Harm was well-written and held my attention until the end.

K.C. Finn

The First Harm is a work of fiction in the suspense, mystery, and crime subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience owing to the use of explicit language throughout as well as moderate references to sex, violence and semi-graphic medical details. Penned by Steven Piskula, this intense thriller follows the life of our young protagonist, Tanna Christensen, a first-year med student who stumbles into a strange and deadly conspiracy during her first big dissection of the human body. As Tanna delves deeper into the mystery behind one highly abnormal corpse, the sinister discoveries that she makes could lead to her own life being taken before the truth can be revealed.

Steven Piskula has crafted a fantastic medical thriller that takes the genre up a gear with its intricate detail, complex plot, and enthralling high-stakes action. One of the many triumphs of this work is found in its length and pacing, which leaves no room for extraneous prose or unrelated scenes. It keeps readers sharply focused on Tanna’s mindset and the machinations of the sinister forces gathering around her as she delves deeper into the horrors of her reality. This makes for a slow-burner at first, although filled to the brim with suspense, and both Tanna and Jason experience some incredible situations that are kept realistic by the dialogue and the narration around their actions and reactions. The First Harm is a compelling work of suspense, mystery, and crime fiction that offers so much for fans of the genre, and would be a perfect starting point for anyone wanting to explore the medical thriller genre for the first time.