Is Something We All Can Count On
But most of us are uncertain about when we will have our date with death
In Reuben Eisenstein's provocative novella Date Certain, a young doctor named Ben Stone is getting adjusted to his new job as Chief of Pathology at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, when his world is turned upside-down by bizarre and unsettling news. Interrupting a routine daily autopsy conference, an apparently healthy man appears in the Emergency Room and announces that he has come to the hospital to die. Which he does, even though an examination shows that all his organs are normal.
A strange, well-dressed man arrives on the scene and announces that Ben will be his new client, meaning Ben will know-like it or not-the date of his death. Ben's life is further complicated by Mahmoud, a sinister trainee in the Pathology Department, who stalks Benand seems to have an eerie control over Ben's mind and his dreams. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic County Medical Examiner and an overbearing detective both pressure Ben to answer questions about the mysterious death of the apparently healthy drop-in at the Emergency Room. Then there's the problem of missing and/or mislabeled bodily organs.
Date Certain is a short book, but it's packed with ideas and plot. It works as a medical thriller, an existential dilemma, and a police anti-procedural. Novelist and critic Paul McComas goes so far as to say Eisenstein's book fits into eight different genres: medical mystery, psychodrama, horror, science fiction, detective yarn, existential meditation, dark fantasy, and story-in-dreams. McComas also labels the novella Faustus meets Franz Kafka, or Kafka meets Kubrick.
Literary criticism aside, Date Certain is a white-knuckle ride through a nightmare, and an entertaining, thought-provoking, page-turning story.
Reuben Eisenstein is a retired pathologist who has spent most of his career working in academic teaching hospitals. He is the author of many medical and scientific articles and several invited chapters in his fields of interest. Date Certain is his first published work of fiction. Dr. Eisenstein lives with his wife, Naomi, in a suburb of Milwaukee.