Bitter Paradise: A Dr. Zol Szabo Medical Mystery

Pennie, Ross

  • Fans of Bones and Coroner will love Dr. Zol Szabo, a doctor who is out to solve medical mysteries before it’s too late

    After weeks of torture at the hands of Syria’s secret police, the bombing of his villa in the ancient city of Aleppo, and the murder of his daughter, trauma surgeon Dr. Hosam Khousa flees his fractured homeland with his wife and son. They make their way to Canada as refugees, where Hosam is forced to trade his prestigious scalpel for a barber’s humble clippers. Though he aches to regain his once- prominent surgical career, cutting hair in Hamilton, Ontario, seems a safe way to make a living, until a fellow Syrian is slashed to death in the barbershop. The ensuing gangland vendetta entangles Hosam and threatens his family.

    At the same time, epidemic investigators Dr. Zol Szabo and Natasha Sharma are battling an outbreak of vaccine-resistant polio that has struck the city with terrifying fury. When Hosam visits a friend clinging to life in the intensive care unit, he spots something that might help the investigation but will ruin his chance of retaking his place in the operating theater. The Great White North is not the sanctuary he expected, but it’s a bitter paradise he must learn to navigate.


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  • Ross Pennie has been a jungle surgeon, pediatrician, infectious- diseases specialist, professor, and novelist. He lives with his family in Southern Ontario.

  • Published: May 2020

    ISBN: 9781770414655

    Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.

    Pages: 352


“A masterly mélange of medicine and murder with a topical look at the myriad problems refugees face.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The writing is masterful . . . not only for the prose and the impressive plotting, but also for the crackerjack finale.” — Booklist

“The search for the killer, coupled with the serious issue of life in Canada for professional refugees, make for a good read, but what really drives this story is the hunt for the virus. Pennie’s expertise is on display here as Szabo and Sharma look for the tiniest clue to keep Hamilton, and Canada, safe . . . [h]is story is as crisp as today’s headlines.” — The Globe and Mail

“Hamilton author Dr. Ross Pennie has written another page turner in what is likely the most challenging sub genre in the mystery/crime library. He writes from experience as a doctor specializing in infectious disease with medical accuracy wrapped into riveting fiction . . . The result is author Pennie at the top of his game with each novel stirring more deeply than the one before . . . It’s polished writing that drives the reader to ‘read just one more chapter.’” — Bay Observer

“Pennie, himself an expert on infectious diseases, injects the narrative with authenticity and a sense of urgency.” — Publishers Weekly

“The only item missing from Ross Pennie’s new novel that would make it entirely topical is a Trump-like figure. Otherwise everything currently striking the world — the spreading of an infectious disease, medical characters on the lofty order of Anthony Fauci, innocent victims — are in place, though hardly on the universal scale of today’s real life . . . What gives the book its powerful sense of reality is Ross Pennie’s own credentials as a retired surgeon who devoted his talents to infectious diseases. You want the real thing? Pennie delivers.” — Toronto Star

“With its textured plotting, and characters we come to empathize with, Bitter Paradise provides insight into the meticulous and often frustrating work necessary to solve a medical mystery. Given the times in which we are living, its sense of urgency is amplified and its crime solvers’ dedication and efforts are to be applauded.” — Mystery Scene Magazine

“His experience gives plausibility to the plots, and his compassion gives humanity to his characters.” — NY Journal of Books