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The Touch

Novel by F Paul Wilson (USA) 1986.

F Paul Wilson exploded onto the horror scene in 1981 with The Keep. He had science fiction novels already to his name, but his first genre effort, The Keep, was the one that launched him as an international success. But then the pressure got tough and the critics were ready to bite. Nevertheless he produced another thoroughly different but still excellent novel, The Tomb; and here is his third, different again, but still as good as, if not better than, its predecessor.

Dr Alan Bulmer is a traditional doctor. Far from the run-of-the-mill American fat cat specialist, who coins in the money from desperate patients who have no choice but to pay, he is happy to stay as a local GP, where he can deal with a wide variety of patients and an equally wide variety of disorders, conditions and diseases. But one day a dying vagrant passes on to him the touch, a boon which enables him to cure anything with a single touch of his hand. But as Bulmer soon tries to discover, is the touch a boon or a curse? For, every time he cures a patient he loses something of himself. And there are so many people to cure...

Dr Wilson had written about his original chosen profession before, in sf novels like 1977's Healer, which has more than a few similarities to this; and he has also done so since in 1995's The Select. But following two vastly different horror novels, he gives us yet another change of sub-genre in a medical thriller with few flaws. Bulmer is well drawn, as are many other characters, especially his eventual mistress and the sardonic British doctor who only becomes an ally when Bulmer cures his daughter. But the chief reasons to read this are the tightness of the writing - the plot doesn't waver, except for a brief and pointless two pages of medical detail - and the occasional passage of intense emotion. Dr Wilson obviously uses personal wish-fulfilment dreams to pepper his storyline and it is these which pluck the heartstrings and make this more than just another medical thriller.

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