As soon as I saw the cover of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell I knew I was in for a comical ride of thrills. The first sentence of the book didn't let me down. The narrator stops to watch a rat fight a pigeon in the snow and someone tries to mug him. It is quite possibly the strangest start to a book that I've ever read. Beat the Reaper is the story of Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at a hospital in Manhattan. In between stories that are reminiscent of House of God, we find out that one of the doctor's patients recognizes him as Pietro Brnwa, a hit man for the mafia. From there the story diverges into Peter's story in the hospital and his past as Pietro.
As a young man, Pietro Brnwa's grandparents have been murdered and he embarks on a mission to find their killers. He gets tied up in with the mob and ends up in witness protection where he becomes the good Dr. Peter Brown. His patient's recognition of his former self sets off panic in Dr. Brown and he must figure out a way to get away from his patient and beat the reaper.
While I can't say this was the best book I've ever read, the story was pure fun. The footnotes were fairly hilarious, and the ridiculous situations that were so outlandish you couldn't help but roll your eyes with both pleasure and disbelief (don't expect believable situations in this book--including a dip in a shark tank and the most bizarre weapon I've ever read about). I did enjoy the humor, but I found myself enjoying the doctor's branch of the story more than the young Pietro's story. I wanted to get back to how Peter planned to get away from the mob every time the story deviated to his younger years as a hit man. I was not disappointed because the book read quite quickly, and I didn't have to trudge through any part of the story that was just plain uninteresting. If you are looking for a thriller that will give you the chuckles, Beat the Reaper is a good way to spend a day off from work or take to the beach while you relax in the sun (but beware of sharks!).