The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw (Plume, April 28,2015)-When Simon Worth matches a young woman to an aging NFL star for a living donor transplant, he has no reason to believe that it won’t be business as usual. Simon promises himself that he’ll only do this for a while, in order to pay off substantial medical school loans. He’s been lying to his father for a while, afraid to tell him that he’d dropped out of med school, and he can’t admit to anyone what he actually does for a living. Simon works for a man named Peter DaSilva, whose legitimate job is transplant coordination at a local NYC hospital, but on the side, he runs a business called Heath Solutions that arranges transplants for money, for those that have big bank accounts, but are ineligible for donations via the old-fashioned (and legal) methods. Simon reasons that they’re helping people, people that might not have otherwise gotten help, as well as helping donors that may desperately need the money. However, when he meets Maria, he’s not sure what to think. She seems to be hiding a dark past, and when the liver transplant goes spectacularly sideways, Simon must help Maria go into hiding, and he’s not sure exactly who he can trust.
The Dismantling straddles the line of literary fiction and thriller quite well, highlighting each character’s personal motivations as the stakes get higher and higher. A tragic accident in Simon’s past has left him vulnerable, and when the careful process that DaSilva has been running begins to break down, Simon abruptly realizes he’s been playing in the big leagues, and he’s in way over his head. The last thing DaSilva and Simon need is attention from the authorities, but it’s exactly what they get after the donor recipient commits suicide. Maria is the real surprise, though. It’s obvious that she’s hiding something, but her story is far more shocking than you may initially think. This is an eye opening glimpse into the illegal transplant trade, and the people that, out of desperation to live, take part in it. This is not a black and white story, and it mines desperation in its many forms. Don’t expect a neat ending, either. There are some truly shocking moments in this book, and the author’s ability to combine psychologically astute character explorations with a fast pace, will keep you up late.