Reviewed by Jim Napier
In a world of overachievers Canadian thriller writer Melissa Yi remains something of a phenom: a full-time emergency care physician during these very challenging times, she somehow finds time to combine the demands of family life (hubby Matt and their two children) and turn out a prodigious amount of fiction. To date, her efforts have resulted in no less than thirty-five short stories, five non-fiction works, two picture books, and fourteen novels.
Yi’s work has also attracted much critical acclaim. She has been a finalist for both the Derringer Award and the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award, and her short fiction was recently long-listed for the Staunch Award, an international feminist prize. Her science fiction tales have earned her the title of Writer of the Future as well as the Innermoonlit Award, and she has been twice named a Roswell Award Finalist.
Yi’s signature Dr. Hope Sze series turns on the adventures of a young resident medical doctor based in Montreal who manages to find more than her fair share of trouble. In this, the eighth novel in the series, Hope and her fiancé John Tucker (also a resident doctor) have been invited to travel to Egypt to spend a month working in Cairo hospitals, their trip paid for by Sarquet Industries, an international firm making software for the health care industry. For the impoverished doctors-in-training, it's a rare opportunity both to gain experience and to help in an international setting, and they jump at the chance.
When their guide fails to appear at the Cairo Airport they find themselves stranded, until Tucker contacts a friend who says they can stay at his grandmother’s house in Giza. It’s an attractive option, and an opportunity to explore the Great Pyramids nearby. But on their way an IED goes off near their bus, seriously injuring several passengers. Hope and Tucker spring into action, assessing and assisting the injured. One of the victims is a South African named Phillip Becker. With shrapnel imbedded in his head, he utters only a couple of intelligible words, Kruger and treasure, which his daughter Gizelda dismisses as nonsense, before he’s taken away for further treatment.
Thus begins Hope and Tucker’s fast-moving odyssey through the streets of Cairo. Before it has ended, they will discover that their benefactor, Isabelle Antoun, is evasive about why they were picked to come to Cairo, as they search for a mysterious fanny pack belonging to Phillip Becker, the contents of which they believe will clear up some of the mystery surrounding the events that have overtaken them. All in all it’s a fast-paced and challenging dive into an exotic culture, as the indomitable pair struggle to make sense of the events rapidly unfolding around them.
Fans of Melissa YI—and there are many—will not be disappointed by this latest entry in the continuing saga of the adventuresome doctor and her fiancé. Not content with the drama of their chosen profession, the pair takes on a mystery that involves the promise of missing millions, and face a hoard of potential adversaries who could at any moment end their lives. It all makes for an entertaining and very contemporary thriller, with not a little evidence of Yi’s considerable medical expertise mixed in. Highly recommended!
Scorpion Scheme is published by Windtree Press.
Jim Napier is a professional crime-fiction reviewer based in Canada. Since 2005 more than six hundred of his book reviews and author interviews have been featured in various newspapers and on multiple websites.H is crime novel Legacy was published in April of 2017, and the second in the series, Ridley’s War, was released in November of 2020. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.