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Mark Anthony Powers
A Swarm in May
Dr. Phineas Mann has come a long way from the darkness in his past. He has a loving wife, two bright children, a lively interest in beekeeping, and a rewarding career in intensive care medicine. And then a challenging case presents: an elderly man in the throes of full-blown tetanus. To make a difficult case worse, the patient’s openly racist son abuses and threatens his father’s medical team, especially the Black intern. When inexplicable setbacks occur, the son’s threats escalate, and the darkness from Phineas’ past comes roaring into the present.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10


Plot: The plot here is solid and intriguing, but the author attempts to weave in too many storylines and the focus becomes unclear. From the wide cast of characters to Phineas's home life, bee tending, and gardening, there are too many narratives to keep straight.

Prose/Style: The author is a strong writer and is able to convey medical diagnoses and terminology not only in a simplified manner, but also in a way to keep the reader interested.

Originality: The author puts forth an entertaining and original storyline with distinct characters and situations.

Character Development/Execution: The author does an exceptional job with his protagonist, offering insight into Phineas's thoughts from the first sentence. Peripheral characters are also well-developed.

Date Submitted: June 10, 2021

Midwest Book Review

A Swarm in May
Mark Anthony Powers
Hawksbill Press
9781737032908, $16.99 print/$6.99 ebook

A Swarm in May is a medical thriller that will delight fans of Robin Cook. Dr. Phineas Mann is observing the traumatic sight of a coma patient in an opisthotonus seizure. As he struggles to alleviate these dangerous symptoms, he also faces overt prejudice from the elderly man's racist son, who is furious that a Black intern is part of the team caring for his father.

As the inevitable happens and treatments don't go as envisioned, these threats become more open and dangerous, challenging the team on several different levels as medical conundrums and intrigue escalate.

A subplot involves a beekeeping endeavor and the natural history of bees, connecting to the story in unusual ways as it expands the world of a medical intensive care unit team by introducing a concurrent mystery involving the outdoors and nature's connections to human endeavors and concerns.

Mark Anthony Powers holds the rare ability to build an ICU drama that is connected to events not just outside the ward, but in nature. This juxtaposition of settings, concerns, and lessons about man and nature creates a satisfying mix of scenarios and insights that evolve on more than one level.

Readers who expect the singular intrigue of a Robin Cook-style production will find this multifaceted approach adds depth and complexity to keep readers guessing about outcomes, influences, and mysteries on different levels.

The blend of social inspection, natural history, and medical thriller is nicely done and charts the rise of both white supremist attitudes and a son's involvement in baseball as Phineas navigates these different worlds. The family relationships, sports, ICU intrigue, and a rising threat that reaches into the doctor's family life create a multifaceted suspense story that is satisfyingly unpredictable.

Readers looking for medical thrillers that hold more themes and interpersonal relationship analysis than the usual Cook production, with the added value of subplots revolving around bees and baseball, will relish the special attention Powers gives to all of his characters. His approach places the story a cut above the ordinary medical thriller, embracing social inspection as part of the puzzle.