The shift begins with Frank and his partner Larry responding to a cardiac arrest call. Frank unexpectedly finds himself taken by the victim's ex-junkie daughter Mary. But don't be fooled into thinking this is a love story, at least a traditional one. Larry's primary interests are food and "the true love of his life," which isn't his wife or even his job with the city; it's his membership in the Bayville Volunteer Fire Department.
Next, Frank works with Marcus, an African-American from the city's first paramedic class. Marcus is best known for his so-called "Narcan revivals," a spectacle worthy of Broadway. He's aware that Frank is burnt-out and maybe more than a little crazy, but isn't perturbed by it, at least not to the degree that Larry is.
Frank's third and final partner is Tom, who broke Frank in as a trainee. Tom, like many in the first generation of paramedics, earned his stripes as a medic on the battlefields of Vietnam. He practices a special kind of "psychological first aid" and nobody in their right mind wants to ride with him. Fortunately, Frank's not in his right mind.
A troublesome homeless man named Noel, chronic caller Mr. Oh, ER physician Dr. Hazmat, and less-than-warm-and-fuzzy Triage Nurse Constance round out the cast of characters.
I've read a lot of books in my life and this ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. My familiarity with the world of medicine has a lot to do with it, I'm sure. The details of the calls and patients' conditions are spot-on, which is no surprise when you find out the author himself is a former New York City medic. It's pitch-dark, packed with gallows humor, and yet has a true heart and soul. Ride along on this breakneck, life-and-death journey through the underbelly of the city that never sleeps.