The Deadly Dinner Party and Other Medical Detective Stories is a collection of short medical case studies. The author, Jonathan A. Edlow, is a doctor. He outlines each case and speculates about the cause of the symptoms before discussing the diagnosis. Edlow also describes the history of how the disease was discovered. Finally, at the end of each chapter, the narrative returns to the original case study and the outcome.
The book was separated into three parts. Each case study was organized according to these three main diagnoses: pathogens, external environment, and internal interactions. There are four – six chapters in each section.
My favorite case study is The Case of the Wide Eyed Boy in which a young boy with a severe headache and a markedly dilated and asymmetrical pupil cause the doctors to believe that he might have a brain mass or aneurysm. In the end, it is discovered that a stimuli in the boy’s environment caused his symptoms, and his story has a happy ending. It was an interesting case study with a pleasant outcome.
A weakness of this book was the strict formula it followed. Its repetitive nature was boring. Due to this repetition, the book was best enjoyed in short doses.
One of the strengths of this book is the author’s passion and commitment to his work. It’s obvious from the preface that medical mysteries intrigue him and that, to him, doctors are heroes for the way in which they work hard, persevere, and diagnose disparate symptoms. The author is also an obvious fan of Sherlock Holmes. Each chapter title features a play on words similar to a Sherlock Holmes book title. In addition, the author acknowledges his youthful fascination with Sherlock Holmes and mysteries as an indirect inspiration for his career.
Overall, this was an interesting book that highlighted the amazing feat that most people achieve each day: living to see the next!