Cover Image: The Last High

The Last High

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Medical thrillers are always up my alley, and this one was no different. Kalla's writing is so well done in this book, I was rushing through pages before I realized it.
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I'm from Vancouver and I have followed the fentanyl crisis closely. The articles that our local news puts out, including interviews and features from local first responders and ER staff are very similar to the story described in this book. There was a weekend where a bunch of young people in one of the Vancouver suburbs OD'd en masse. I remember reading the articles. I think part of this story is based on that incident.

This book was an intimate, fictionalized-yet-based-on-reality, medical/police thriller take on what's happening in my very own backyard. Very well-described, the main character and her police contact try to determine how all of the overdoses of young teens, seasoned users, and wealthy business types are related...are they? Where is this harder-than-hard drug coming from? Who is dealing it and why?

It was disturbing, and made even more disturbing because it was so relatable and I can attest to the reality behind the "fiction". So, the author's day job is an ER doctor in Vancouver. I guarantee that much of his story, as well as the investigative cop stuff is based on real events. Also living in Vancouver myself I can comfortably assume that this story is based more on fact than fiction.

I have driven through the epicentre of the Vancouver drug crisis...I have accidentally found myself walking along Hastings and Main on more than one occasion. I've seen people on the side of the road with needles hanging out of their arms. It is disturbing and very, very real. The gangsters, users, innocents, and heroes of the healthcare industry as described in this book are also very, very real.

If you want an eye-opening look into the drug crisis and how it's affecting society from the expected users to the unexpected "privileged", as well as a sort of narrative that will guarantee your curious mind never travels down that path...this is the book for you. I really appreciated that the author, while medical in background, did include medical terms, acronyms, and jargon, but made sure to define them so that the average reader knew what was being discussed.

One of my favourite authors, Michael Crichton, also started out like this as an MD who wrote novels in his spare time, and this book did not disappoint. I also love finding out that something I enjoyed was local so I will definitely be checking out more books by this author!

Thank-you to NetGalley and the publisher for my advanced reader copy.

Characters: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Plot: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Writing: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overall: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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This is a very intriguing and riveting novel about drugs which takes place in  Vancouver.     It totally keeps your interest and a gripping read
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Julie is a clinical toxicologist and ER physician working the night shift  when multiple fentanyl overdoses are brought to her ER and the race is on to save them.  Anson is one of the Vancouver Police Officers working the case to find out how the kids got the drugs. Follow them as they work together to answer the families questions in aftermath the senseless tragedy of the overdoses. Quick read full of suspense, heartbreak and romance. 

Thank you NetGalley, Daniel Kalla and Simon & Schuster for this edition and hearing my honest review. Looking forward to reading more with you
#partner
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This was a book i would never have chose for myself. Off it hadn’t been for receiving those as an ARC i would never have picked it up. I found this book thoroughly entertaining and it kept my attention throughout. Thank you for the ARC! I will now search for other books by this author.
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The opioid crisis is mostly front page news in the 21st century. Daniel Kallas has written a medical drama that views the crisis from multiple perspectives: medical, community, the addict, the person in recovery, the dealers, and law enforcement. The story begins with a group of teens partying with no alcohol or drugs. Except one of the teens decides to spike the lemonade with ecstasy. By the end of the night 6 of the 7 kids would be dead, another dozen would die from the same drug before the crime was solved. Solving the crime would fall upon Dr. Julie Rees, ER doctor and toxicologist, and Detective Anson Chen, from the Vancouver Police Department.

The Last High allows the reader to understand the issues as seen by the various players. We meet the addict who is always an addict; we meet the dealers who are as much businessmen as they are filthy criminals; and we meet members of law enforcement who have seen it all.

Daniel Kalla, an emergency physician from Vancouver BC, presents a compelling story that draws the reader into the lives of all concerned. The book also provides an overview of the opioid crisis to those of us who are not involved directly in the midst of it. My only wish is that a book, though fiction, that delves into a subject of current interest might include an epilogue that suggest places that the general reader could learn more about the opioid epidemic and how the public can help address the problems it creates. Alas, this book is missing this final step.
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This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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There is a certain eerie element to this tale in that it seems like something that is coming right out of the newspaper headlines in real time. With the escalation of deaths attributed to Opioids, the concept of a lethal, tainted batch of Fentanyl making it onto the streets isn’t so far off. Set in Vancouver, Canada, ER doctor Julie Rees has seen a lot in her life. She herself is a recovering Opioid addict who lost her fiancé to an overdose. Living with her guilt she feels compelled to do all she can to save the lives of addicts who come into her ER. She is unprepared for an accidental overdose that brings multiple teenagers into her ER. Unlike other Opioid cases, this unfortunate group of teens are succumbing at an alarming rate. They are only the beginning as it becomes apparent that a particularly deadly batch of Fentanyl is on the streets. Julie joins her friend, Detective Anson Chen, in the investigation. With many powerful drug sellers in the game, who would have the motivation to release a deadly batch of Fentanyl? Like I said this story has a real life vibe to it, which is also bolstered by the author’s obvious experience in the medical field. This is a story that has a little bit of everything. A little romance, a multidimensional look into the drug world, excitement, and a touch of sadness for all the lives affected by these insidious drugs. Any one of them, while they are fictional could stand in and represent a real life cut short. Review posted to Goodreads. Amazon, Litsy, Facebook and LibraryThing.
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Based on reviews, I went into this with lofty expectations. That being said, I found the first half rather mediocre, wondering whether I was reading a different book. It wasn't until the last 25% where the pace and intensity really picked up, making this an extremely enjoyable read.
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The Last High is set in Vancouver & centers on the opioid epidemic. The novel opens with a group of teenagers overdosing at a party & being brought the the emergency department where Dr. Julia Rees works. Dr. Rees is a former opioid addict who lost her partner to a fentanyl overdose. Dr. Rees works tirelessly to save two of the teenagers, but is flummoxed as to why the fentanyl affected them so quickly & why multiple doses of naloxone failed to revive most of the teens. Dr. Rees soon teams up with Detective Anson Chen to discover who is dealing the drugs, which come to been known as the last high. This story is suspenseful & the characters are relatable. Mr. Kalla draws upon his experiences & expertise as an ER physician to led authenticity to The Last High. Opioid dependency & overdose is a tragically timely topic & Mr. Kalla represents it realistically while acknowledging the complexities of addiction. Overall, The Last High is a thought-provoking read that addresses the opioid crisis in a sensitive way using the unique perspective of a former addict. Thank you NetGalley & publisher for an ARC of this novel.
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I enjoyed this book, especially being from Vancouver. So much was familiar and the epidemic of drug abuse was portrayed really well. I liked looking at this from a doctor's point of view. The characters were good and I'm sure will get better with future installments.
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Warning: there a lot of characters in this book. But I wouldn’t say that’s a downside!

This crime thriller read like an intertwining puzzle much like you’d see in most popular crime shows such as CSI or Law and Order. The way the thriller was written really kept you wanting to read further! I think my only difficulty was the fact that there were a good amount of characters that perhaps only had a tiny bit of “page time” due to the storyline. 

Also, this book is set in Canada (Vancouver to be exact), and I was not aware of the way fentanyl is handled in that region. I’m from the US. So that was sort of a learning curve and I wish I had researched more about it before reading. But not knowing did not effect the reading experience. You learn about it as you read. 

Overall, an enjoyable reading experience for any crime or thriller reader.
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This was a fairly standard thriller, kind of like something James Patterson might have published -- the prose is not very engaging and some of the characters engage in super unethical behaviour but are still portrayed as the hero/protagonist. The author obviously knows medicine very well and the ER scenes seem very realistic. (The characters do spread the urban legend that you can overdose on some powerful opioids just by skin contact with the powdered form though.) Also it's very clearly set in Vancouver (except St. Paul's is called St. Michael's) and there's a ton of accurate local colour, which I enjoyed (one or two of the characters even graduated from the university I work at). Several viewpoint characters pop up for just a short chapter or two, but most of them kind of feel like the same voice. It does bring the focus on the epidemic of opioid overdoses here in BC though, which I also think is a good thing.
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Mystery | 16-Adult
I’ve always enjoyed medical thrillers, devouring Robin Cook’s Coma in my mid-teens; annoying my surgeon who discovered a Michael Palmer novel on my bed during recovery; and now, Daniel Kalla, who first wowed me with Pandemic (yup!) some 15 years ago. His work is imbued with realism and authenticity as he works as an ER doctor in downtown Vancouver’s St Paul’s Hospital, and that comes through in spades in this new book drawn from the real-life opioid crisis that plagues our nation’s streets, still killing more people than the current Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Julie Rees is a Vancouver ER doctor who also works for the Poison Control Centre. Both roles come into play as she first deals with a group of five teens from the same party who are rushed into emergency from drug overdoses, only two of them still alive.
She fights hard to save one in particular, putting her on a heart-lung bypass even though it’s obviously too late. That decision is driven by her own tragic loss of a loved one to street opioids, but it leads a superior to call for a formal review as it violates hospital protocol. Despite this looming threat, Julie joins forces with Det. Anson Chen to find out the source of the deadly drug as more cases and bodies pile up. Their work takes them to the needle-littered streets of the downtown east side as well as the tony mansions of the ultra-rich in Vancouver. This book takes a critical look at the heartless and limitless greed that drives the illegal drug industry, though Kalla’s approach to drug users and their stories is mostly quite compassionate. There is some description of torture and violence, but generally this is a mainstream look at an oft-ignored issue. Good pacing, realistic medical situations and authentic dialogue all help to lift this into an interesting story, though the characters aren’t as well developed as I’d like, and an annoying romantic thread adds little to the storyline. Local friends can find an e-version to borrow from the Grand Forks (B.C.) & District Public Library. My thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for the digital reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49521599
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Let me start off by saying INCREDIBLE! I love a good medical thriller and I enjoyed this from start to finish.

The Last High is exciting, thrilling and realistic. 

In Vancouver, B.C., Dr. Julie Rees has a lot on her plate with a surge of overdoses in her ER. Together with Detective Anson Chen, she must work quickly to figure out the source of the deadly drug before it’s distributed any further.

The chemistry between Julie and Anson is a great addition to all the mystery and fast paced action going on. The flirtation mixed in with such a serious story adds a bit of lightness and realness to their characters.

This novel has quite the mix of secondary characters, from professionals and unsuspecting teenagers using drugs, to a dealer in love with a junky. It’s eye opening realizing how many levels of people are involved in the drug trade and on the medical and legal side of it.

In depth and believable characters and a well researched idea on an intriguing topic. 

I will definitely be checking out more from author Daniel Kalla!

Thanks to the author, NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book in exchange for the honest review provided here.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of The Last High by Daniel Kalla.

In this detective drama, a doctor and detective team up in order to uncover why there is a new influx of teenage overdoses.  These kids are not drug users, and they're all overdosing at once.

This is a case of "it's not you, it's me."  Sometimes you just don't gel with a book.  The character development was good, I always enjoy a story with a character who has a past.  The mystery started off intriguing.  But I just could not sink my teeth into it.  Maybe there were too many side stories/characters?  Either way, I made it about halfway and then put it down.
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The Last High is the first book written by Daniel Kalla that I read, and I really enjoyed the investigative suspense story.  It is unfortunately a timely read as the opioid crisis  in both Canada (where the story is based) and the US endangers the lives of many.   Dr. Julie Rees, both an ER Physician and a toxicologist working with poison control, joins forces with  Detective Anson Chen to find the culprits behind the number of people overdosing because of the deadly drug carfentanil most often resulting in death.  The story shows the level of involvement  and hierarchy in the illegal drug business., as well as the personal  heartbreak for loved ones of the victims. The camaraderie between Julie and Anson was a fun side of their working together, adding in a couple of other more serious encounters with other detectives kept the theme of the book carrying throughout the book. I believe the fact that the author is also an ER physician helps with the realistic nature of the story-telling.  Thanks to NetGAlley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to review an ARC of this book in return for an honest review, which this has been.  #NetGalley. #TheLastHigh
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Drugs are bad. I know this, having read countless medical thrillers. But this book brings that fact to life by giving us characters we like and care about. The heros of this story are not perfect, the female protagonist is a doctor who has a troubled past with drugs. This makes her more human and more believable. There is a large cast of characters, but it is easy to keep them apart. Some we care about more than others. The deadly drug cuts a wide path of victims, from high schoolers to lawyers. In the end good prevails, but the story shows how easily it would be to die from not knowing what is in something you are taking.
I really enjoyed this book. I am going to go look for another by Daniel Kalla. Thanks to Netgalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for a review. More like this please!!
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exciting thriller - i loved the fact that this was medicine-related and had a great cover

I love the title as well
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The Last High refers to the result a person experiences when taking a drug that has been tainted to a lethal level. In this book, Daniel Kalla writes about the synthetic opioid crisis set in Vancouver, British Columbia. The characters range from the medical professionals trying to save the lives of the users to the dealers and police personnel who are always on the hunt. The characters are very realistic and the topic is timely. The pace of the book is fast and the story line is issue-oriented.
My only critique would be a brief addition of unnecessary political bias, which didn't fit within an otherwise engaging story.
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dr. Julie Rees is an ER doctor and a toxicologist who along with Detective Anson Chen are investigating a large number of drug overdoses that are resulting in an increase of fatalities. 
This book is a great look into the opioid crisis and the people from all walks of life that are affected. Full of fast paced action, danger and even a little romance. The characters are fully developed and engaging. 
Any book that has Daniel Kalla's name on it, is one that I will immediately grab, without reading the summary because he is a proven storyteller sure to delight any reader looking for a great way to spend a few hours.
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