Once Pocket Books stepped up to the table with a whopping two million dollar deal for Margaret Cuthbert's first two novels, the talk began that her debut, The Silent Cradle was certain to be one of the "hot" books in 1998. Happily for all concerned, The Silent Cradle actually lives up to its advance billing. Dr. Rae Duprey, vice-chairman of the prestigious OB/GYN Department at San Francisco's Berkeley Hills Hospital, is passionate about her work, her patients, and most of all, about babies. But Berkeley Hills is losing so much business to the new Birth Center across the street that the hospital's Board is making plans to close down her department.

Run by Rae's vindictive former lover Dr. Bo Michaels, the Center is an upscale pastel haven for low-risk deliveries. Any sign of a problem and the expectant mothers are delivered to Rae's doorstep. And lately, there seem to be a few too many "bad babies" coming Rae's way and she's getting the blame. Someone is out to destroy both her department and her career, and if a few mothers and babies lose their lives in the process, so be it.

Determined to uncover who's masterminding the sinister plan, Rae's soon caught up in a web of murder, medical sabotage, and hidden agendas. The killer, Rae is certain, is someone on staff at Berkeley Hills. But is there a colleague she can trust to help her discover the truth? Dr. Sam Hartman, the new chief of cardiac anesthesia, is a willing volunteer as both a detective and a potential romantic interest. A complication Rae tries her best to avoid.

Unable to convince hospital management that there is a murderer in their midst, Rae finally contacts the police, who dismiss her story they need "proof, not grudges." Then a vengeful Bo has her railroaded off the staff, crippling her ability to investigate within the hospital. To make matters even worse, she's beginning to suspect that Sam may be in league with her enemies. Finally, disguised as a hospital cleaning woman, Rae sets a trap for the killer a killer she hopes won't be Sam. There's a terrifying showdown in the hospital nursery before the murderer and his motives are exposed.

With a smart feisty heroine and heart-stopping medical emergencies worthy of the best of ER, Cuthbert, an obstetrician turned novelist, has produced a chilling medical thriller that should satisfy even the most discriminating fans of those other doctor/writers, Robin Cook and Michael Crichton.

Reviewed by Lucinda Dyer.

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