Wednesday 12 October 2022

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson @TheSimonBot @BoroughPress @hannahlbright29 @midaspr #SometimesPeopleDie


The year is 1999. Returning to practice after a suspension for stealing opioids, a young Scottish doctor takes the only job he can find: a post as a senior house officer in the struggling east London hospital of St Luke’s.

Amid the maelstrom of sick patients, over-worked staff and underfunded wards a darker secret soon declares itself: too many patients are dying.

Which of the medical professionals our protagonist has encountered is behind the murders? And can our unnamed narrator’s version of the events be trusted?

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson was published in hardback on 1 September 2022 by The Borough Press. My thanks to the publisher, and Midas PR for my copy for review.

I attended a panel at the Bloody Scotland Crime Fiction Festival that this author was part of and was fascinated by both him, and the premise of the book. Simon Stephenson was an excellent panel member, with a dry wit that made me chuckle out loud at times. His writing is exactly the same. This is a medical crime drama with such dry humour running throughout. I've not read anything quite like it before and enjoyed every page. 

Our unnamed lead character is a Scottish doctor. He's recently returned to medicine after serving a suspension for stealing opioids from his previous hospital. The only job he can find is at St Luke's Hospital in London; a struggling place, which is understaffed with overworked medics. It's a place that welcomes any doctor, no matter what's happened in their past. 

In any hospital, sometimes people die. However, at St Luke's, lots of people are dying. Far too many and far more than expected. It becomes clear that this is not just down to illness, these deaths are mysterious and need to be investigated. The police are called in and seem to take an extra special interest in the Scottish doctor, they know more about him than he is comfortable with and he has to ensure that nothing he says or does causes suspicion, even though he's not a killer. 

The author's history as a hospital doctor shines through in his writing. The description of place and people, the extraordinary setting of overworked medics, dealing with constant exhaustion and unexpected deaths reads so well. There's also that humour that I mentioned, a welcome addition to a story that could be bogged down with the darkest of themes.

I especially liked the inclusion of short chapters that dealt with real-life medical murderers, these are an interesting addition and goes to prove that whilst the story is fictional, it's by no way unbelievable. 

Gleefully dark, with a lead character who is complex and often confounding but always a joy to follow. I enjoyed this murderous story very much and look forward to more from the author. 

Simon Stephenson originally trained as a doctor and worked in Scotland and London. He previously wrote Let Not the Waves of the Sea, a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It won Best First Book at the Scottish Book Awards, was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year.

His first novel, Set My Heart to Five was a Bookseller Book of the Month and was described by the Daily Mail as ‘Funny, original and thought-provoking.’ It has been optioned by Working Title Films to be directed by Edgar Wright from Stephenson’s screenplay.


He currently lives in Los Angeles, in a house where a famous murder took place. As a screenwriter, he originated and wrote the Benedict Cumberbatch starrerThe Electrical Life of Louis Wain and wrote the story for Pixar’s Luca. He also contributed to everybody’s favourite film, Paddington 2.

Twitter @TheSimonBot

Instagram @simonstephenson1000

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