James B. Cohoon ’76 Biol.
TouchPoint Press: 2020
Matthew Preston is just a kid when his father is shot and killed while surprising a burglar in their home in the tony west Los Angeles enclave of Pacific Palisades. The culprit, Ted Nash, is the twentysomething ne’er-do-well son of well-to-do neighbors: a distant, workaholic father and doting, clueless mother. He’s sentenced to life in San Quentin State Prison. But that’s not enough for Matthew, who obsesses over avenging his father’s murder.
Matthew is a straight-A student and standout athlete who attends the Stanford University School of Medicine with the nefarious plan of becoming a prison doctor in order to gain access to Nash. While Matthew’s hitting the books in medical school, the killer’s family files a petition to get him released, and Matthew hastens his scheme to exact revenge.
By now, he’s fallen for his study partner, the plucky and whip-smart Torrey Jamison, who did not enjoy the same kind of affluent upbringing. She’s at Stanford on a full scholarship—and fighting her own troubled past.
Both take the Hippocratic Oath in a White Coat Ceremony at the beginning of medical school. And the big question throughout this suspense-filled story: will one of them break it before they graduate?
James Cohoon’s fast-paced, tension-filled novel combines law and medicine with themes of privilege and power, corruption, socioeconomic inequality, entitlement, misogyny, and more. Despite those heavy subjects, though, the book reads quickly. It won the 2020 American Fiction Award for best medical thriller.
Cohoon spent more than thirty years as a civil litigation lawyer and served as president of an LA-based firm until his retirement in 2014. He and his wife Rozanne Lane Cohoon (’76 Biol.) have two children: a track-star daughter who went to Stanford and worked as a lawyer, and a son who practices medicine in southern California.