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The First to Say No Charles C. Anderson

The First to Say No opens with a gritty, realistic rape scene as one of Parkview Hospital’s ED doctors, Elita Romanov, regains consciousness to find herself tied to a table and being assaulted by a member of the Plagues gang. Because of her specialized military training in her native Chechnya, she is able to kill her assailant and his partners, escape and blow up a gang house as several other Plagues walk in.

The Plagues have terrorized the citizens of Watertown and especially the ED staff for years, but attacks were now coming daily. The hospital administration refuses to protect or support its emergency staff, fearing that the presence of armed officers and metal detectors would frighten the public. The local police are corrupt, taking money from the Plagues to ignore their drug enterprises. Elita is the latest in a string of ED staff who have become assault victims, but her experience galvanizes the female staff to fight back.

Elita and her friend, Dr. Kate Taylor, discuss ways of dealing with the Plagues and decide that killing them is the only solution.  How to go about ridding Watertown of these violent drug abusers/pushers is the next issue they must decide. Whatever they do must be undertaken with caution, so that none of their co-workers, friends or family members are implicated in the plot.

As Kate debates methods of killing the Plagues, she is stunned to discover that her mother killed her abusive stepfather with continued overdoses of a blood thinner prescribed for her mother.  A chance encounter in the ED with an alcoholic who had accidently killed himself with acetaminophen gives Kate the idea to use acetaminophen to kill the Plagues. But how to overdose them without getting caught?

It is Kate’s mother who solves this conundrum by suggesting that the common painkiller be hidden in homemade chocolate bars and moonshine. Slowly, Kate’s mother, one of her mother’s friends, a sympathetic neighbor, and several members of the ED staff become complicit in the plot to kill the Plagues and document the police corruption.
Within a matter of weeks, the gang is decimated by a lethal combination of acetaminophen-laced chocolate and moonshine and a mystery sniper who takes out the survivors one and two at a time. Ridding Watertown of its “Plague” does not come without cost, however, as Kate’s mother and her neighbor, both suffering from terminal illnesses, take their own lives after implicating themselves in the string of homicides to cover for the younger doctors, nurses and EMTS actually responsible.  The climax of the book is Dr. Kate Taylor’s fight to the death in a water fountain with her chief nemesis, the last of the Plagues.


The First to Say No
by Charles C. Anderson

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Our nation’s health care system is in shambles. The emergency rooms of many of America’s inner-city hospitals are like war zones, where patients, nurses, and doctors don’t know from one moment to the next if another patient might lunge out and attack him/her. In the fantastic medical thriller novel, The First To Say No, retired ED Doctor Charles C. Anderson has penned an exciting, page-turning read about an example of one of America’s dysfunctional emergency rooms and what drives a female doctor who has been raped several times (Dr. Elita Romanov) to get her much justified revenge. Romanov and Dr. Kate Taylor, who is also fed up with the increasing numbers of violent attacks on hospital employees, decide that they need to be the first to say no, and fight back against the violence. Anderson’s novel will open your eyes about the dangerous situations that the medical profession faces every day that they work in the U.S.’s emergency rooms.

One aspect of the novel that struck me from the beginning was that it is told primarily from the point of view of its main female protagonist, the aforementioned Dr. Kate Tayler. Either sex faces many challenges while toiling in any emergency room; but, for women nurses and doctors, they additionally face the possibility of being sexually assaulted and raped. These sorts of attacks are becoming, sadly, increasingly more common, and I salute the author for bringing the dangers that ER doctors/nurses encounter to the attention of America’s conscience.

What’s more, the author tells Kate’s story with a very dramatic and compelling flair that is guaranteed to hold and maintain your interest. It’s one of those sorts of books you won’t want to put down, or turn your Kindle off, to even sleep at night. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I suddenly discovered that my wife or daughter had been raped; I wouldn’t be able to see straight, probably, and I’d desire to get revenge, just as Dr. Elita Romanov and Dr. Tayler do, though I might not carry it off with the panache that they do.

As The First To Say No opens, Dr. Romanov is tied to a table in one of the lairs of the Plagues, an inner-city gang that has been terrorizing the city’s ED, and the city, in general. She’s been raped multiple times by various members of the Plagues while unconscious, and is being raped by a Plague when she regains her consciousness.

Her hands are not tied very well, and her legs are free. She pretends to still be unconscious, and waits for the right moment when the Plague seems to be too engrossed in what he’s doing to pay much attention to her. Then, the resourceful Dr. Romanov kills her attacker in a manner that would make the Bond villain in Octopussy proud. She takes his gun, and uses it quite effectively to dispatch the other two Plagues in the adjacent room.

The book moves at a breakneck speed, and there is plenty of action in it to satisfy any fan of the thriller genre. It feels somewhat strange, on one level, to be rooting for a person (Dr. Tayler) who plots her revenge and seeks to wipe out the Plagues from her city; but, on the other hand, reading what these scummy individuals did to her and to other people, and how they take over an entire park in the city and bribe the police, makes you cheer her on.

Dr. Tayler enlists the help of other women who work at the hospital who have been victimized by the Plagues. Through Tayler’s eyes, and the gifted writing of Dr. Charles C. Anderson, we get an intimate look into what daily life is like in emergency rooms across the U.S. There are still those altruistic, dedicated individuals who, thankfully, want to become the nurses and doctors of the future, to help heal and cure the sick, injured, and dying people they meet in the ER.

We are introduced to one example of this when Dr. Kate Tayler orients a new nurse, Jennifer. She details an unromantic, very realistic picture of what it’s like to be a doctor or nurse in many emergency rooms. One important piece of advise Dr. Tayler gives her is to tone down how she dresses: “Be more prudent when you dress for work on your next shift. The more attractive you look, the greater your chance of being assaulted in the pit.”

The First To Say No is a novel that will open your eyes, grab your attention from the very first page, and won’t let go of it until you’re finished reading the book. How Dr. Tayler eventually gets the entire town to work together to drive the Plagues out is awe-inspiring. From having read his blog, I know of the author’s genuine concern with the decline of the number of hospitals in the U.S., the rise of healthcare violence at hospitals, and the decline of America in general. I share his concerns, but in The First To Say No, Dr. Anderson lets his story and his skills at relating it speak for themselves. He doesn’t beat the reader over the head with the message he’s also included in his novel, but it’s there. I would highly recommend The First To Say No by Charles C. Anderson to anyone who loves to read medical thrillers.