Thanks to the lovely people at Berkley Publishing for my copy of The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin. All thoughts and images are my own.
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Pediatric cardiologist Zadie Anton and trauma surgeon Emma Colley have been best friends since medical school. Their domestic and professional lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, are chaotic but fulfilling – until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.
Nick Xenokostas was once Zadie’s chief resident and a powerful figure in her life. Now his unexpected appearance will reopen old wounds, forcing both women to confront the circumstances that nearly derailed their lives at the beginning of their careers. And Zadie will begin to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend…
As a lover of medical TV shows, I was curious to see how a medical drama novel would sit with me. Answer: I think it can work. Martin does a good job of employing the terminology one would expect to find in an emergency room without making it unintelligible for the reader. You don’t have to know what exactly a subcutaneous tissue is to understand that they are inside another person’s body and the situation is probably dire. I’m very squeamish about blood, so this is maybe even preferable to my seeing it on TV.
However, Martin’s writing was not good enough to carry the story. The form she has chosen is to start each chapter with is either “Zadie” or “Emma,” the year, and the location. This gives her the freedom to travel in time and space, as well as between the two main characters. Martin abuses this. Occasionally, a new chapter does not change person, place, or time. A chapter break is simply inserted for dramatic effect, like a commercial would be on a TV show. I wish she had put more thought into when to change perspectives, and subsequently when to have a break in the chapter. Additionally, only Zadie is given chapters in the past. It felt like Martin was unable to capture Emma’s duplicity, so she simply did not write past chapters for Emma. As a whole, this writing seemed sloppy.
Ok, I’m going to do something I never do and put SPOILERS in my review because I just need to talk about the ending. So if you don’t want SPOILERS, don’t read past this point.
I was so frustrated by the “twist.” I really wanted it to be something medical – that’s what I was here for. Something shocking. That’s what made this book unique. Instead, it was yet another story of a man screwing a woman over by cheating on her and of her best friend being complicit in it. I guess I should have taken the hint when it was billed as “Liane Moriarty” -esque (I don’t enjoy her writing), but I was still disappointed. Also, Emma is an insane person. She is manipulative, selfish, and unstable. I cannot believe Zadie took her back as a friend. From the reveal of the twist to the end, Martin seemed to be flying too fast and trying too hard to tie up loose ends.