A amusing and insightful essay on A Case of Need by Michael Crighton for a History of Forensic Science class -
A Case of Needing Serious Revisions
Michael Crichton has penned some of the most engaging, timely, and thoroughly accessible tales to be published in the last twenty-five years. What his novels lack in literary merit and distinctive style they make up for in crisp plotting and edge-of-your-seat suspense. From alien viruses to regenerated dinosaurs, from evil Japanese monoliths to the insidious maneuverings of the modern corporation, Crichton latches onto the scientific and political controversies of the day, and squeezes out of them every last ounce of shock value. At least, that's usually what he does.
A Case Of Need could have used quite a bit more shock value. The problem is largely a matter of timing; when the book came out in 1969, the moral dilemma surrounding illegal abortions was still a hot enough topic to seem ripped from the headlines.
Though abortion certainly remains a hot-button issue, the debate has shifted. For the time being, at least, the argument centers on whether or not the act should be legal, not on whether or not doctors are currently breaking the law by performing them.
The antiquated plot line is not the story's main flaw. The biggest drawback here is a one-two punch of highly technical prose employed to relate a thoroughly dull story. Karen Randall, the daughter of an eminent physician, dies as the result of a botched abortion. Art Lee, a Chinese obstetrician, is accused of performing the D & C that has resulted in her death. Though Lee is known to be an abortionist, he vehemently denies any involvement in the case. Lee calls upon his friend, forensic pathologist John Berry, to clear his name.