A Case of Need

ISBN: 0451183665
ISBN 13: 9780451183668
By: Jeffery Hudson Michael Crichton

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About this book

Was it murder? Was it horrible botched surgery - accidental malpractice? Was someone in the great Boston medical center violating the Hippocratic oath? No one knows exactly...Only one doctor is willing to push his way through the mysterious maze of hidden medical data and shocking secrets to learn the truth. This explosive medical thriller by the bestselling author of "Disclosure" and "Jurassic Park" is vintage Michael Crichton - with the breathtaking brand of riveting suspense and authentic medical detail that has made him one of today's most fascinating writers.

Reader's Thoughts


I like medical fiction....medical thrillers really, and this is just okay. It's more like he's SHOWING you a story instead of telling you a story.It's very dated. Written in 1968, when abortion was illegal. The names are dated, the way they dress, some of the settings. Why would a random middle aged guy be allowed to sit in a girl's dorm alone to "question" her without suspicions being raised? Some of line of med and law is blurred. It's an ok read. It passes quickly.

John Mcconahey

If you’re a doctor, you’ll probably love this book. After all, Crichton attended Harvard Medical School and is certainly knowledgeable of the medical practices and techniques in effect at the time of publication (1968). If you’re a determined layman, have a dictionary close at hand while you follow this plot. Just be aware, this isn’t a book for fast reading (if you really want to know what the terms that are used mean) and it's heavily footnoted and apendicized. But, don’t let that discourage you from enjoying this engrossing medical mystery.The daughter of a prominent (and powerful) Boston physician dies from the after effects of a botched abortion and a pathologist’s closest friend, Dr. Art Lee, is arrested for murder. Thus begins the quest of who-REALLY-done-it, with Dr. John Berry seeming to be the only one willing to support his friend. It turns our there are a myriad of choices for suspects, many of whom are the dead girl's relatives. While there are no wild car chases or street shootouts, "A Case of Need" keeps you wondering about the conclusion. Give it a shot.


When I first started this book, I didn't realize exactly how outdated it was (about 40 years! I didn't think Michael Crichton was that old!). Some things would not happen today (unless lots of people were willing to pay fines for HIPAA violations!), but it was still interesting and fairly well written--it was one of Crichton's first novels, after having graduated from Harvard Medical School. I liked how fallible the characters were, but I still have to look at the end result through a critical societal lens: a white male doctor is trying to solve a young woman's death secondary to a botched abortion, but it turns out that this girl was a lunatic who was drunk or high most of the time and who had previously had 3 abortions by age 19. In the end, the doctor vindicates both of his doctor friends, the "baby's father" (a black drug dealer) is dead and the female nurse, who was also a druggie and had stolen morphine from the hospital where she worked, performed the abortion (i.e., the doctors would have performed perfect abortions, but this nurse obviously didn't know enough to do it right). Even the black lawyer, whose career would have benefited from a trial, was screwed because the real culprit (the nurse) was found. Interesting, no?


Overall a very enjoyable read. For me it was a fantastic insight into the behaviours and attitudes of the time. The beginnings of black people emerging into a predominately white society, the role of women, views on coloured immigrants, the climate of the time, the attitudes towards abortion. A fantastic picture of the time was painted. I was happy to note that even the protagonist was imperfect in his ways and it came through naturally, not as if it had been added for flavour. All characters were really bought to life, from their descriptions. The beginning was a little difficult to get into with regards to the many footnotes (some I felt were helpful, but some broke my concentration as they provided added information that could have been explained in the story itself or done away with. However, the story really took off as any good mystery should.I appreciate Michael Crichton's ability to portray characters for all they are, just as they are (comes out in Jurassic Park and The Lost World too) - very observant of the human condition and that resonates with me personally. One of the reasons I've enjoyed this and the other books of his I've read.

Deborah Leitch

Although I am a Michael Crichton fan, I found this story quite disappointing. The lack of a villain to drive the plot leaves the main character stumbling across clues, and making assumptions for which there was no foretelling. It lacks the conflict and tension that his usual stories have. The other distracting feature is that in spite of his being a physician and his including multiple appendixes to explain medical terminology, the actual medical scenes are completely unrealistic and would never happen in a hospital, so I also found that disappointing. I expected more. At any rate, it is still an entertaining read, just not one of his best by any means.

Benjamin Thomas

This was Michael Crichton's first published work, at the age of 26, written shortly after his graduation from Harvard Medical School. I found it to be a fairly straight forward and fairly tame medical thriller by today's standards but at the time of its publication, it might well have been more cutting edge.The protagonist is a pathologist working in a large Boston hospital who comes to the defense of a friend who has been accused of murder via a failed abortion procedure. It's one man against the establishment, so to speak, and Crichton uses the setting and the plot to show off his medical knowledge. Almost too much at times for it seemed to get in the way of the story occassionally. There are even footnotes throughout as well as a multi-subject appendix that further explains the terms and the history of medical practice. It is, however, dated; the medical landscape and state of technology has obviously changed a lot in the last 43 years. But I found the plot to be interesting and a harbinger of the "scientific thriller" style that the author would come to perfect in later novels.The novel also attempts to deal with some controversial medical topics such as abortion and euthanasia although Crichton is careful to maintain a sort of neutrality and allow his characters to have divergent opinions. All in all, a reasonably good medical thriller that probably won't set your world on fire but should serve to provide some light escapist entertainment.

Kelsey McKim

I read this because I'm a big fan of Michael Crichton's scifi/suspense books. (I started with Jurassic Park and got quickly and completely hooked.) I read this knowing it was Crichton's first novel, and I was able to see some things that labelled it as such. Many of Crichton's characteristic elements-–cutting off conversations at dramatic points, foreshadowing, and pausing the storyline to provide some background or a moral discussion on the given topic, to name a few--appeared in what I can only call their infancy. It was interesting to see an early stage of a favorite author's work.However, maybe because this was such an early book of Crichton's, it did not grip me nearly as strongly as his other books. I'm squeamish, so I tried to zoom over the medical details as quickly as possible, and perhaps this was part of why the book didn't have as strong of a hold on me as Crichton's other novels. This book is also quite old, and centers on the abortion debate in the 1960s. This was interesting from a historical point of view, but not very relevant to me now because of Roe v. Wade. That's part of why I like Crichton's books, though--I like the vintage scifi feel, almost as I like to giggle about the technological advances that Crichton found dangerous and are now mundane to me (Touch screen computers? Supercomputers the size of buildings? What about 'em?). And finally, I was simultaneously put off and intrigued by the subtle sexism that Crichton probably wasn't even aware of including in his book at the time. I don't think it'll be a surprise that in a 1968 novel about medicine, every doctor is a man and every assistant is a woman. Outdated sexism is another motif in Crichton's books that somehow finds a way to bother and amuse me at the same time.Long story short: Disappointing compared to Cricthon's other books, but still an interesting read if you're interested in an historical perspective on abortion, sexism, medicine, or the like.


Having already read quite a few Michael Crichton books, I can tell that if I hadn't known this book was his before reading it, I could easily have told after reading only a few pages.Already at the time (1968) he had pretty much mastered his style of writing, having a great way to balance descriptions, personal thoughts by the main character, and really really good dialogues, here mainly in the form of interrogation scenes.What wasn't the best were the characters. Now don't get me wrong, I think Dr. Berry, J.D. Randall, and even Peter are pretty nice to read about and to see interact, but save for a few scenes in the book, there isn't that much involvement directly by the characters plotwise, we have some thinking about the characters, they get mentioned, but they aren't used in great lengths.The other characters are OK, they all feel realistic, they're well constructed and everything, but they feel a little too much... normal, you know ? You wish they would speak with a little more energy, considering the context. The police guy was pretty funny though.This wouldn't matter too much if the story wasn't so character-centered. The story is good, that's for sure, but it's firmly rooted in the testimonies of the characters. The story is mostly what the characters tell us, there is very little actual action.To sum it up, it's a good book, really enjoyable to read from beginning to end, if like me you like Crichton's style of writing. The mystery is interesting enough to keep you hooked until the end, the themes used are very good and original, everything is well done, and even though the secondary characters weren't all that memorable to me, they portrayed a climate of tension in a medical setting where reputation is important like I've seen nowhere else.


I'd just read The Emperor of All Maladies and needed a break from weighty, exhaustive nonfiction, but still wanted something medical-related. Goodreads is great for recommending books similar to ones you've already liked, but if you've never read any well-researched medical mysteries or forensic thrillers, it's kind of hit-or-miss. I cruised some lists, found Crichton, and since I liked his sci-fi, decided to give it a try.It was a nice little thriller deeply embedded with authentic medical facts and terminology. Isolating the time period was a little disconcerting - I didn't know that he was writing in the late 60's, and it was a full third of the book before I knew that's when it was set and not a dystopic Handmaid's Tale-esque alternate future where abortion is illegal. It's embedded with Chrichton's trademark moralizing, not as heavy-handed as Jurassic Park, but a lot heavier than Airframe.


I've been a fan of Crichton ever since I came to know that Jurassic Park was based on his novel. A Case of Need was Crichton's first medical thriller, written when he was only around 26. This in itself is a fantastic feat. The novel is fast-paced and thrilling, keeping you constantly on your toes. His character development is brilliant and he handled the then (arguably even today) very taboo subject very nicely. Even if the reader does not have a medical background, you can get by through contextual understanding. The detailed footnotes and appendices also help, though it may put some readers off. I found the story coming together really well, but the ending was a little confusing. I couldn't really understand how the protagonist was able to figure out how things would go the way he was able to. This was probably one of the shortcomings that Crichton, in his introduction, asked his readers to excuse. This book also struck a chord in me about my strong pro-choice feelings. Highly orthodox Christians and pro-life supporters will find this book distasteful. I think this book certainly brings up the repercussions of a society where abortion is illegal, on a woman's right to choose. The brief appendix on this debate was also very interesting.


A pretty good medical mystery set in the days when abortions were illegal. Interesting how our world's ethics and morals have changed.

Jessica Lave

I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did. I only picked it up to do some genre research for my own writing, but once I got into it, it was hard to put down. It's very fast paced, and told in the first person. It's also a pretty complex mystery the narrator is trying to work out- though I can't say it kept me guessing because I hardly put it down long enough to guess at anything! The medical stuff isn't too heavy for a layperson, and it's the questions the narrator asks and whodunit aspect that kept me turning pages. It's a little dated, but if you read it as a period piece (set in 1960s Boston) rather than something that was current when it was written, it's not troublesome. The sense of humor is great, and incredibly, gets better as the book goes on. The only bit I had some trouble with was the character names. Most are pretty waspy, common-sounding names so they're easy to mix up, but the book does well enough explaining things, reminding you of previous scenes and putting things into context that it's not too tough to figure out who's who as you go along. Overall excellent choice, especially if you like medical dramas and thrillers, but even if you're a crime and horror fiction junkie like me, it's a great read.


i read this ages ago so this is a somewhat removed review. i loved this book. im a big sucker for crichton and this book did not disappoint. the story itself was great but what fascinated me the most was looking at the snapshot of history that this book portrays. i was born as abortion was being legalized. i grew up in a world away from backstreet operations but this book still held weight for me. it was also interesting and a bit unsettling to see that the same dilemmas and moral conundrums are still being thrown around 40some years later. how much we've changed, how much we've stated the same. ive seen other reviewers talking about the medical jargon. i dont remember having much of an issue with it. it seems to me that i could be similar to hard scifi. sometimes it can be a hindrance to the enjoyment of the book if you get caught up in the frustration of so many words that don't have meaning for you. i think though if you've ever seen any medical drama on tv that you could probably have enough of a basic knowledge that the lingo shouldnt be an issue.


Another ok book for taking along on a plane. My cheif complaint was the number of bit characters whose names were almost impossible to keep straight. Second would be the amount of medical lingo, which got old.

Etammy40 Elliott

Well written medical murder mystery. Enjoyed it.

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