It is 1999 and a young Scottish Doctor has come back from suspension after being caught stealing and using opioids. He ends up at what can only be described as a struggling hospital, St Lukes, in London because, to be honest, it's probably the only place that will have him. Over the course of the book we meet the various staff and patients of St Lukes in what starts off feeling like a 'year in the life on the ward ' memoir type but soon turns darker when the deaths of some of the patients start to be questioned. Someone is committing murder - but who? The unnamed Scottish Doctor (from now on I'm going to call him USD) who is telling the story is one of the first suspects and as a former opioid user who has now well and truly fallen off the wagon again he does come across as an unreliable narrator, but suspicion soon moves to others.
The hours USD has to work and the cases he has kind of make the opioid theft and use understandable especially when tragedy strikes even nearer to home halfway through the story. This leaves USD still trying to get to the bottom of things even when an arrest has been made.
I must say I am not usually one for medical based stories so if it hadn't been for Sometimes People Die being featured on Between The Covers (the BBC2 book club programme hosted by Sara Cox) it would have probably passed me by. Thankfully though it was and the piece by the author and the chat between guests in the studio was enough to convince me to give it a go. It turned out to be one of those books that keeps you reading even when the words are blurring and you know you'll have to reread this in the morning because, just like USD you need to get to the bottom of things.
By turns dark and humorous too this was a cracking read and Simon Stephenson has quickly gone on my list of authors I will be watching out for. Definitely a five out of five stars for this one.
If you've never seen Between The Covers I strongly suggest keeping an eye out for it - it's a great way to spend half hour and you never know, you might just find your next big read.