Forgotten Books: A Case of Need by Michael Crichton
A Case of Need was published under the name Jeffery Hudson and won the Edgar in its year, 1968. My assumption, and I may well be wrong here, is that Crichton wanted to use a new pen-name. His previous ones had appeared on adventure paperback originals and men's adventure magazines. Need was certainly a more complex and ambitious book.
The first thing to remember here is that Crichton was a doctor. While this whodunit revolves around the apparent framing of a doctor for performing illegal abortions in the Boston hospital where the narrator works (abortions as controversial then as now), what drives the novel is Crichton's guided tour through the lives and egos of doctors of all ages. Two or three of them presented here could well be the surgeon (true facts) who left his patient unfinished on the table while he "ran" to the bank to do some business. Ah, yes, that old Hippocratic oath really gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it?
All mysteries should be this suspenseful. Crichton was particularly good at dialogue and knows how to move a story with it. His people are real and his take on them judicious. If he doesn't like someone, he justifies his take by laying out an interesting (and sometimes snarky) backstory. Yes, dreaded word--backstory!
Some of the technology is dated here. A few scenes would today include the MRI if nothing else. But since the narrator is a pathologist and takes us through many moments of his day, the outmoded technology doesn't matter much. What does matter is the good docs vs. the bad docs and the resolution of a fascinating fair clue mystery. Crichton was a masterful storyteller and this novel certainly deserved its Edgar.