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Title:
A Case of Need
        I. Introduction
Author: Jeffrey Hudson (Michael Crichton)
Title: A Case of Need
Publisher: Signet (Penguin)
Year of Publication: 1968
Type of Book: Medical Drama
How I came to choose it: Strolling through Club Price
II. Summary of Plot
A Case of Need is told in the first person, a rarity for Crichton, who usually uses the third
person omniscient. The main character, the renowned pathologist John Berry, has a friend,
Arthur Lee, who performs illegal hospital abortions for those in need. Arthur Lee has been
framed for murder of a beautiful young girl, Karen Randall, who, according to the Randall
family, came to him for an abortion. The abortion supposedly went badly and the girl had bled
to death. When Berry sees the scrapings from Randall's uterus, does an autopsy, and
examines her medical history, he becomes dedicated to finding the real killer. Berry becomes a
private-eye-for-a-week, touring the streets of Boston, consulting with Karen Randall's friends,
and meeting strange people. Constantly in his way stands the Randall family, a very old,
respected family in the medical world of Boston. They are a large group of men and women,
most of whom are working at one of Boston's many fine hospitals. Wherever Berry steps, they
are always blocking his path to proving that Karen Randall is a loose girl who sought an illegal
abortion.
III. The Setting of the Book in Time and Place
A Case of Need is set in 1968, the time when it was written. America was undergoing vast
social change. The social revolution was in full swing. LSD and hippieism were popular. This
was a tumultuous year for the United States. John Berry meets many strange types in his quest
for substantial information to protect his friend. One of my favourite examples, was Superhead,
the psychedelic musician. When John knocks on his door, a short, bearded man takes him to
the inner chamber, which is the soul place created by Superhead, the small, blond-headed
man sitting in the center of the room. He is in the middle of a really long trip. He fiddles with
consoles and makes strange humming and banging noises with his instruments. The walls are
painted and tapestries are hung so as to make the place feel like a womb. This is just one of
the many demented characters that inhabit Boston.
Against the wildness that existed in the general public, there existed a strong contrast. Boston,
one the main medical centres of North America, comprised largely Catholics. There were many
large, old, families descended directly from the Catholics aboard the Mayflower, of which the
Randalls were one. Furthermore, Arthur Lee's job as obstetrician and illegal abortionist was
particularly risky in a city such as Boston, because of the large Catholic population. John Berry
knew that at Arthur Lee's trial, all twelve Jury members would be conservative Catholics. An
accused abortionist had no chance of survival in Boston.
IV. Evaluation
A significant bit of irony in this book is the fact that Arthur Lee is both an abortionist and an
obstetrician, a doctor concerned with childbirth. A Case of Need discusses at length the
ethics, procedures, circumstances, and risks of abortion and when it is right and wrong to
perform it. Crichton keeps a very open mind about this touchy subject, and, having been a
medical doctor at the time of the first publication, confronted the reader with a barrage of solid
statistics, straight out of the then-current records. This was, like all of his other books, very
well-researched. Of Michael Crichton's books, this is my fourth favorite, behind "Great Train
Robbery," "The Andromeda Strain," and "Rising Sun." I recommend it to anybody who
doesn't mind spending that little extra bit of time to research the meanings of the complicated
medical terms that Crichton has included. Despite the fact that it is littered with technicalities
that an intelligent reader can hopefully wade through, this book has a very fast pace and
provides and entertaining read.         Thank you.
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