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'Tragic Wand' by James Tucker

Books in Brief

Thursday, March 15, 2001

By Karen Carlin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer


Tragic Wand

By James Tucker



I wouldn’t want to be close friends with Dr. Jack Merlin and Assistant District Attorney Tory Welch. These modern-day Pittsburgh-based versions of Nick and Nora Charles manage to stumble into danger on a regular basis.

That’s understandable where Tory is concerned -- after all, her career revolves around crime and prosecuting it. Merlin, on the other hand, seems to fall into it just by being along for the ride. With his surgical skills and medical knowledge, as well as his talents in magic, he’s able to save his own neck as well as that of his live-in love.

The partnership continues in “Tragic Wand,” the third paperback mystery by Pittsburgh pediatrician James Tucker.

While at the office of renowned plastic surgeon Marshall Cutter, Tory is attacked and threatened by brutish Stanley Stilwell, one of Cutter’s patients. Later Stilwell, now with a new face courtesy of Cutter, runs Merlin and Tory off the road in the woods. Before he can kill them, a masked assailant appears, grabs Stilwell, inserts an ice pick into his neck and runs off.

Tucker handles his potboiler adequately and explains medical procedures in ways nonmedical readers can understand. The author ends things with an excellent twist, making you unsure which characters are good, and which are on the shady side.

The good doctor also makes full use of his local settings -- from Fox Chapel to Aspinwall to Mount Washington to Oakland. It’s gratifying to see that Pittsburgh’s many faces make it an attractive location for books as well as movies.

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