Review: Pulse by Edna Buchanan

My second book review for, wherein I give my honest opinion about a work of commercial fiction, and manage to miss the point of commercial fiction. Who knew a book about murder and heart transplants is supposed to be light reading? Not me, not then. Now I know. Like I say, learn something new every day.

I really did like the book.

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(CNN) — There’s a saying known by virtually every writer on the planet that goes something like, “Write about what you know.” Edna Buchanan has taken that advice to heart, writing novels of crime and suspense set in her home base of Miami, Florida. Her latest installment, “Pulse,” is no exception. 

This newest edition of her Miami chronicles revolves around businessman and heart transplant recipient Frank Douglas’ attempts to ‘pay back’ the family of the heart donor. The novel opens at Frank’s hospital bedside, just hours after his life-saving surgery. By page nine, Frank is back home and well on his way to a new life.

But strange dreams, and a nagging sense that there is something he must do, leave the protagonist sleepless and confused. Frank Douglas becomes a man with a mission, determined to find the family of his donor and help them any way he can. But he gets far more than he bargained for and in no time becomes deeply involved in a twisted tale of murder and deception.

The novel moves at a brisk pace, due largely to the sparse writing style and thinly developed peripheral characters. Buchanan doesn’t waste time with unnecessary details, choosing instead to focus on the steady revelation of clues and the progress of the action towards the (unfortunately predictable) conclusion. As I read “Pulse”, I was reminded of the works of fiction in my junior high school library — written with a clear picture of the audience and designed to keep the reader engaged without over taxing the brain.

But that’s one reason the novel was fun — it’s easy to read. Buchanan’s characters are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, while the tale she weaves is entirely believable. If you are already an Edna Buchanan fan, you’ll have no trouble digesting “Pulse”. If you’ve never read her work, this may be a good place to start — probably not her best effort to date, but good enough for light summer reading.