The Practice Baby

GP Dee Flanary risks her reputation, her livelihood and ultimately her life when she investigates the death of a patient. As Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh and Jane Harper the Australian bush, this terrifying yet tender thriller immerses us in Sydney and the wild mountains of southern NSW.

Tom’s corpse lies cold and decaying on his bed. Can Dee fight the Coroner, the police and the medical establishment to prove his death was murder? As she delves into the circumstances around his tragic fate she uncovers a trail of apparently ‘accidental’ deaths and a sinister connection to her own past.

Suspicion and paranoia fight with reason as she tries to uncover the truth. Her discoveries threaten powerful men. The Medical Board label her psychotic, her deregistration is imminent. If she persists her career and her livelihood are at risk.

When the killer attacks Dee is forced into an edge of your seat confrontation with a cold and ruthless murderer.

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Extracts

“’Can we eat the fish and chips out of the paper—it stays warmer?’ Dee asked.
     The real reason was to go back to the easy meals of summer holidays and childhood. Her first taste of a Sydney rock oyster was one of her few memories of her father. At low tide they walked around the rocks to ‘his secret spot’. The water reached up to Dee’s knees. He was tall and strong. He had a short knife to prise the shells off the rocks. He ate several till she felt left out and wanted one too. He tipped the strange thing directly into her mouth. 
     It was salty, soft and slippery. When she squished it with her tongue there was an explosion of flavour, all the scent of an ocean distilled into a mouthful.
     Her father was dead. Dada, she still called him. 
     Dead Dada, dead like Tom, like all the others whose lives were cut short by murder.”

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“The flat was at the rear of the complex. They wound through a series of courtyards sprouting cigarette butts and dusty dead plants. Dee recognised the stairwell. Two of her home-visit patients, Jock and Lil, had the ground floor flat.
     Two uniformed policemen were already at the door to the stairwell. They were both well above six foot, rugby solid and blond with their big shiny belts carrying guns and radios. They introduced themselves—Senior Constable Miller and Constable Nilsson. Nilsson looked like a child dressed up in the uniform of a policeman. He had a black cylinder, about a metre long and thick as his upper arm, slung across his back. The strap was pressing into his shoulder. The solid black object sent a shiver through her. Surely they wouldn’t need to break down Tom’s door?
     Miller had his foot wedged in the stairwell door to stop it locking. He pulled it open for them and they passed through.
     The smell in the stairwell was familiar: Jock’s corned beef and cabbage, she realised, the same meal he’d prepared every week for all the years Dee had been doing home visits to his demented wife. In this mean space, the police were alien giants: Teflon coated; too defined, too clean to be contaminated by the dim and grime. Their perfectly pressed shirts seemed safe, as if no chaos could reach someone whose outer layers were so ordered. The smells of freshly pressed cotton and sports deodorant became a force field around them.
     ‘It’s the top floor,’ said Glen.
     Dee was grateful for the short reprieve.
     Keen as nine-year-olds at a school sports carnival, the constables ran up the stairs two at a time with the battering ram.”

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“Through the whole four-hour drive from Sydney, Beatrice, Oliver and Eleanor complained as though their own mother were a kidnapper. School holidays and all they wanted was to sit indoors on their phones. Or go to parties because ‘everyone was going’.
     ‘What about nature? Don’t you want to lay with the sun on your back to watch a seagull hover inches above a crest of sand? There’s an ocean pool enclosed by breakwaters and a long wild beach to walk along.’
     ‘There’s a party at Sam’s—everyone will be there,’ from Beatrice.
     Ollie had a sudden spasm. ‘This place has got wi-fi? Mum, please tell us that this place has got wi-fi.’
     Dee pressed her lips together then forced herself to take a deep breath. Her favourite memory of childhood was looking up at seagulls hovering just above the sand dune that separated the rocky pool from the long wild beach.
     What kind of unnatural creatures had she brought into the world?
     She could cancel their mobile phone contracts. She pictured their reactions, slugs shrivelled up in a pool of their own juices when salt was poured on them. There’d be noises too—loud squeaky screams of existential angst. The images gave her the forbearance to keep driving rather than stop the car and leave the three of them on the side of the road.”

 

Comments from Readers

I am stunned and amazed by your novel and breathless in anticipation of the next one! There is so much about it I like not least of which is the excellent writing and the great structure. I love the fact that the protagonist is a menopausal woman and a GP. I love the skill you use in building the tension in the narrative both with the murder mystery and with the relationship with Raj. Your characters are just wonderful – Adam, Raj, Dee herself, Janine, the kids – they all jump off the page. I also love the glasshouse metaphor and much more… Forget about aliens and zombies. This is the kind of thing our nightmares are made of – and if they’re not, they should be! A fast moving, tightly written thriller told with a GPs eye for detail. General Practice can interesting, exciting and all consuming but only rarely is it as thrilling as this!

Jan, GP, psychotherapist, writer, runs a Creative Doctors Group, 50’s

I finished reading your novel, and I loved it! Right from the beginning I felt Dee’s grief. I could identify with her guilt about not giving enough time to her family, her caution about getting too close to Raj, her concern and helplessness regarding Leah. Raj was a great character & though it wasn’t spelt out, I was pretty sure Dee was damned attractive too. I was intrigued about what Adam was hiding & tense during the chase. The ending was very satisfying too, though I can see another book coming when Adam is released from gaol. Fantastic story, beautifully written! Congrats!

Rosemary, Professional business writer, 40’s

I sat down to read this and was riveted to my seat. It’s a ripping good yarn and I like your style of writing. I also like the way Dee doesn’t do stupid things to get caught by the villain, like the female leads do in so many other books. Your expertise in medicine, counseling and food lends a lot of authenticity to your writing. Also I found your descriptions of the landscapes very evocative. I really enjoyed this. It is certainly an absolute nail-biter. I found it literally unputdownable, especially towards the end. I look forward very much to the next instalment.

Margaret—lawyer, keen reader of crime fiction, 50’s

I’ve never read such a dramatic, physical denouement with a female investigator before. Because Dr Dee is a woman I was expecting a cerebral, analytical unfolding of the plot, with documentary evidence of her suspicions. To find the resolution so physical was something of a surprise – an effective one. Replace the atmospheric detail of the pathologist’s laboratory (Patricia Cornwell and Kay Scarpetta) with the hectic detail of the general practitioner’s surgery, and you have the setting created by LM Ardor in this exciting account of a GP caught up in the competing demands of patients, family, lover, and Medical Board disapproval. And that’s without mentioning the dangers of her stubborn refusal to accept a verdict of death by natural causes.

Maureen, University Lecturer, Author of several books about time, late 60’s, keen reader of crime fiction

Just finished your book – it’s so great!!!!!! I couldn’t stop reading it!! I started it last night and was the first thing I did in the morning – the only reason I couldn’t read it through the night was because I’ve had minimal sleep in the last few days. Dee was a really cool character and I liked Raj as her counterpart. I thought the clash between Leah and Skye around Jules was really good and of course Jules was great!

Lily, 15, passionate writer and reader