Listening to the Voices
By Rick Pullen
The voices in anesthesiologist Tammy Euliano’s head long ago told her to write a novel. Life got in the way as it so often does, and she and a colleague wrote a medical textbook together instead. But that didn’t stop the voices from continuing their conversation. And after a long chat, Euliano has finished her second medical thriller, MISFIRE.
It’s a sequel to her 2021 debut novel, Fatal Intent.
If you like smart mysteries, Euliano’s MISFIRE fits the mold. The novel follows Dr. Kate Downey, who discovers an implanted heart defibrillator misfiring when one of her patients falls prey. Then her beloved Great-Aunt Irm suffers the same fate, and this suddenly gets personal.
Fortunately, no one has died—at least that we know of—but it couldn’t happen at a worse time. The company that owns the device is being sold to a conglomerate—a misfire of a financial kind that could backfire on everybody. And of course, this takes place just as Kate begins to wonder if this is more than a medical device malfunction.
Euliano knows her material. She was the first female obstetric-trained anesthesiologist at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She became director of the residency program and did considerable research and development on medical devices and holds several patents with the university.
Over time, she began to realize medicine did not fulfill her every need. Oh, she wasn’t about to quit her day job—but she needed more. “I would love to write full-time,” she says, “but I love taking care of patients.”
So she did the next best thing. It was 2013, and she was celebrating her 20th anniversary with her husband, Neil, in Sedona, Arizona.
“We were hiking, and I realized I wasn’t playing to my strengths.” Her sister had just had a medical emergency, and she realized it was now or never. She came home and wrapped up her research, resigned from running the residency program, and lowered her medical workload by 40 percent—all in 30 days.
“Best thing I ever did.”
She returned to her writing roots and began anew. She had written the medical text with her mentor, anesthesiologist J.S. Gravenstein. When they were done, he suggested using their knowledge to write fiction.
“We started, and then he fell ill,” Euliano says. She had completed only a couple of chapters when Gravenstein died. She took her friend’s death hard but realized writing fiction had “ignited a part of my soul that had been dormant for a few years.”
And while that novel never got off the ground, pieces of it survived and became part of her subsequent novels. “On those days when everything is flowing and when my characters are talking to me, it’s just amazing how a whole group of people can be in my head, and they are real.”
Her first novel, she says, “was easy since it was something I had thought about since medical school—end of life issues.” MISFIRE is different, since it focuses on the world of medical devices, giving readers a scary insider’s view of the topic. This is a thriller weaved around Kate’s extended family and friends and especially her Great-Aunt Irm, a German immigrant. Irm is a wonderful character who solves sticky questions with words of wisdom and a great home-cooked meal.
Euliano draws you into this suspenseful tale layer by layer until the story’s pace quickens from mystery to thriller speed. Kate is no detective, but an anesthesiologist (like the author) who stumbles into this mystery and then won’t let it go until she finds resolution. She is likeable, believable, determined, and—unknown to her—falling in love. (Okay, so nobody’s perfect.)
Euliano’s prose, like her protagonist, floats gently but swiftly across the page. Witty, urbane, authentic, and spiced with rural flavors, this is a thriller worth your time.
“I think I’ll always have a small medical component (as opposed to a device) in all my thrillers,” she says. “The other few I’ve written are not focused on hospitals but on medical research labs.”
As far as we’re concerned, she can set her novels anywhere—as long as Kate and Great-Aunt Irm are residing in Euliano’s head, talking to her. This is a conversation we should all hope lasts a long time.