Wednesday 30 January 2019

Review ~ Never Do Harm by Mirren Jones

EM People

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Hugh is a successful hospital consultant, arrogant, egotistical and hugely ambitious. He is admired and loathed in equal amounts by his colleagues, and humours his long-suffering wife Anne. His lifelong friend Alan is a hardworking General Practitioner, valued by his patients, if not by his partners and staff. He’s on the cusp of burn-out, and increasingly cynical about life, yet still loved by his magnetic wife Simone – a French sculptress of bronze figurines.

Like all doctors, they took the Hippocratic Oath, swearing to ‘Never Do Harm’, and keep it for 30 years. But in private life must the value still apply? What if temptation arises? Can betrayals remain secret? Who is being harmed?

The novel sweeps from France to Edinburgh, largely set in the Scottish National Health Service in the new millennium, a challenging time of intense organisational change.

By turns dark and humorous, this psychological drama explores the meaning of ‘harm’ – both intended and unintentional, and begs the question: HOW FAR CAN YOU EVER TRUST ANYONE?

My thoughts about it..

Hugh and Alan have been friends for a long time, both are successful doctors, each committed to their specialty however, Alan's life as a stressed out GP is very different to Hugh, who as a successful hospital consultant has rather more free rein on his enterprises. The two men are completely different in both characters and outlook and it is these differences which will, eventually,  have dramatic consequences on their friendship.

Moving forwards and backwards in time, Never Do Harm dissects the minutiae of friendship, looking at the events which bind these two men, and their respective families together, and also revealing secrets which, despite every effort at concealment, have the ability to shatter everything that once held true. I enjoyed getting to know both of these characters, Hugh and Alan are both very different men, one I like rather more than the other, but I could see just how easily the faults and failing of both men had the potential to ruin lives.

This is a really interesting look at the way professional life impacts on personal circumstances. Hugh and Alan each have their own way of coping but in a cash strapped NHS, Alan finds that working in general practice is draining him of enthusiasm and energy, and whilst Hugh seems to flit from one successful appointment to another, his more mercurial personality doesn't always endear him to his colleagues.

The writing partnership between these two authors works well. The transition between who is writing is seamless and I never had the impression of a clunky changeover in writing technique. I enjoyed the way the narrative moved between places and time-frames and how the plot was revealed slowly so that the denouement when it comes is all the more shocking.

Never Do Harm is a perceptive look at male friendship and how circumstances, once so solid, can very easily crumble into tiny pieces.

Mirren Jones is the pseudonym for the creative writing partnership of Marion Duffy and Elaine Atkins.

They have been writing together for over 20 years. Previously, as academic researchers and teachers this was non fiction, including two books published by Radcliffe Health. In 2008, after a major change in both their lives and careers, they produced their debut novel, 'Eight of Cups', and have just published their second, a psychological drama entitled 'Never do Harm'. The sequel to Eight of Cups, the second in the Dalmeny Girls Trilogy is now under construction!

MIRREN represents Marion, being the Scottish version of her name, and JONES represents Elaine - a true Welsh girl.

Twitter @MirrenJones


  1. Thank you Jo for such a positive and very insightful review of our novel 'Never Do Harm'. You've really 'got it' in terms of what we hoped to convey to the reader! Good Luck with the blog in future - it's such a great resource. Best Wishes Elaine and Marion aka MIRREN JONES

    1. Elaine and Marion, thank you for sharing your novel with me. Happy writing :)


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