From the publisher:
Meet Peter Brown, a young Manhattan emergency room doctor with an unusual past that is just about to catch up with him. His morning begins with the quick disarming of a would-be mugger, followed by a steamy elevator encounter with a sexy young pharmaceutical rep, topped off by a visit with a new patient--and from there Peter's day is going to get a whole lot worse and a whole lot weirder. Because that patient knows Peter from his other life, when he had a different name and a very different job. The only reason he's a doctor now is thanks to the Witness Protection Program--and even they can't protect him from the long reach of the New Jersey mob. Now he's got to do whatever it takes to keep his patient alive so he can buy some time...and beat the reaper.
While doing his best to keep his new patient/former work colleague alive "or else," Dr. Peter Brown reflects on his past life as Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa, mob hit man. This story moves quickly from medical procedural to wild adventure and back, with Peter using knowledge from his past life to help him on this, one of the most dangerous days of his life. Outrageously exciting, Peter lets us into his past life, moving rapidly from teenage friend of a mob lawyer's son, to a contract killer. Peter is well-rounded, allowing readers to hate the violence of Pietro's actions, but sympathize with how he becomes entangled. Chapters alternate between past and present, and are broken down into short scenes, making this a very rapid read. Many characters are wacky, and to me most are one-sided: crazy, deceptive, short-fused, stupid, angelic. When a different side of the character is shown, he then completely becomes that new personality or stereotype.
I found the use of the "f-bomb" to be excessive throughout the book. Obviously I expect it in dialogue from most of the characters, but it really wasn't needed in the narrative. The sexual situations seemed to be thrown in just to have them, as they were unnecessary to this plot-driven novel.
Something that makes reading Beat the Reaper different from most novels is the use of footnotes, written in Peter's sharply sarcastic voice. I often found myself laughing or going back to re-read lines, making sure I understood the intended meaning. I found the use of the section divider, a silhouette of the grim reaper, to be a nice detail, especially when it changed to the silhouette of a farmer on a tractor, Peter stating that a farmer would be the modern day man with a scythe!
Overall I enjoyed Beat the Reaper and could envision everything as it was described, sneaking into houses, a grossly tumorous knee, shoot-outs, an under-funded city hospital, the long dark walk to the shark tank. . .
Beat the Reaper Official Website - book excerpt, audio, video, and even a game!
An interview with Josh Bazell