Judith Lucci’s Alexandra Destephano Series

judithrocchiccioliAbout the author:

Also publishes under the name of Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli

Born: Richmond, Virginia

Education:

A.S., Nursing, J. Sargent Reynolds College, Richmond, VA

B.S., Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

M.S., Nursing, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

PhD, Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

Website: http://www.judithlucci.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Medical Thriller

Publisher: Self-published through Createspace

Future of the series: Lucci just recently released her newest addition to the series Toxic New Year: The Day That Would Never End which came out on 6/12/15.

The Simon Review

Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli’s Alex Destephano novels are medical thrillers situated in the heart of New Orleans centered on a hospital known as Crescent City Medical Center (CCMC). The main protagonist is Alex Destephano, the legal advisor for CCMC and a former nurse. I found it interesting that Rocchiccioli used a lawyer as the lead character of a medical situated series, but it seems to work for this series and rather makes sense in a way. Hospitals and medical communities are highly regulated and are under constant scrutiny for potential litigation, so much so, that medicine has become a fine tuned business with precise protocols to be followed. When protocols are not followed or if there is disruption in the normal flow of the working environment, litigation is always a concern and who would be the first to be notified of such a situation, well the legal counsel for the hospital, of course.   It is up to the legal counsel to give advice to the hospital staff to minimize risk and prepare for the fallout if things go bad, which is exactly what Destephano does in this series. Destephano is a little different than most lawyers in this situation, in that she gets very intimately involved in the problems that arise which put her into life threatening situations.

Destephano is not alone in dealing with the catastrophic problems that arise, but is surrounded by a number of interesting characters. One thing that Rocchiccioli is good at is creating really good antagonistic characters.   The CCMC’s CEO is Don Montgomery aka ‘the boss from hell’ with his sidekick head nurse Bette Farve, the ‘Nurse Ratched’ of the CCMC.  Then there is Destephano’s ex-husband Robert Bonnet, a native to New Orleans and happens to be the head of surgery at the CCMC. Of course, if there are crimes involved there are going to be cops and the cop of focus is Jack Francoise, cranky typical overweight cop who develops a relationship with Dr. Monique Desmonde, lead physician for the psychiatric unit.

In the beginning of the series Destephano is dating architect Mitch Landry, who turns out to be more than what Destephano could imagine. The rest of the series deals with the on again off again relationship with her ex-husband Robert Bonnet. Rocchiccioli uses the Destephano/Bonnet relationship as a tease, but the fact that it has been occurring over three novels is growing rather tiring.   Rocchiccioli also likes to use the term ‘hot’ when describing Dr. Bonnet and other man, here are some examples:

Mitch Landry? He’s so hot! I might even go to a black magic feast with him.-Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center

Your hot date going to meet you here?- Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center

Robert looked great. He was impeccably dressed, clean shaven, and his eyes sparkled at the sight of her. He truly was a hot guy, she thought to herself.-The Imposter

Damn, that man is hot….if I were a few years younger…Sandy had just picked up her phone to call infectious disease when Robert returned.-Viral Intent

She chided herself for thinking how hot both of the FBI dudes were.- Viral Intent

So Yvette, still did have the hots for the handsome surgeon.- Viral Intent

Normally using the term ‘hot’ is not much of an issue when reading romance novels but in a thriller it just seems wrong. Developing romantic relationships give depth to characters and add considerably in building a good story, but with thrillers, characters are often dealing with life threatening situations and romance should be secondary and done with a delicate touch, so referring to anyone as being ‘hot’ just cheapens the experience especially when it is coming out of the mouths of highly educated middle aged professionals as is true with this series.

Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli self publishes her series and there is some confusion on Amazon to the order of the books and the author’s title. Amazon has the The Imposter listed as the first book in the series when in actuality Chaos at Crescent City Memorial Hospital is first.   Additionally, the books on Amazon have Rocchiccioli’s books published under the name Judith Lucci which may be a pen name that she has decided to write under.

The series is a fun read and Rocchiccioli has put in considerable research particularly with the last novel of the series Viral Intent. According to an interview conducted with Rocchiccioli, she was listed on the FBI’s Watch List because of her research on terrorism and jihadist. Now that is dedication. With the exception of discussions on some drugs, psychiatric conditions, and viruses, there is not much discussion with medical technology involved.The books should be read in order to follow the timeline with the developing relationships between characters and also to understand references to previous books.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series-The Imposter-because of one of the creepiest bad guys around

Least Favorite Novel in the Series-Toxic New Year-because of just one word “Ghost”-something I don’t want to see in a medical thriller.

What about the science? Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli is a doctorate level nurse and nurses do have a background in science but Rocchiccioli focuses most of her attention on the administrative and political aspects of a hospital and its medical community, not so much on the medical science.

The Alex Destephano Technical Word in Review: SV-40, is the simian vacuolating virus 40 found in monkeys and humans and is one of the most controversial and discussed viruses. In 1960 Ben Sweet and Maurice Hilleman discovered SV40 in rhesus and cynomolgous monkey kidney cell lines which were used to produce the polio vaccine in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Sweet and Hilleman also found that 10-30% of both the Sabin and the Salk strains of the polio vaccine were contaminated with SV40, which meant that millions of children and adults were exposed to SV40 between the years 1955-1963. In 1962, a laboratory at Harvard found that hamsters inoculated with SV40 developed tumors which led to a concern that SV40 could cause cancer in humans. This led to an intensive investigation to determine if that is true. Even after countless research and clinical studies that have been performed, there is no definitive agreement on whether or not SV40 has had any effect on the population that was exposed and whether SV40 causes cancer in humans (Dang-Tan, T. et al). Two types of cancers are being intensely scrutinized for possible linkages to SV40, mesothelioma (a unique cancer that affects the lung which may also be associated with asbestos exposure) and brain tumors, however, the data from different laboratories have resulted in conflicting results (Fang, Q, et al).

Representative Image of SV40 Image from Wikipedia
Representative Image of SV40

Image from Wikipedia

The discovery of SV40 in vaccines as well as concerns of other potential contaminates that may affect the welfare of growing children has led to the vaccination debate. Historically, the vaccination debate began soon after the first vaccination of cowpox by Edward Jenner in 1796 which created immunity against small pox. The debate of vaccination usage is still going on which is clearly evident with the recent outbreak of measles that has led to contentious arguments both pro and con on the usage of vaccines. Concerns on the effect of SV40 as well as other possible contaminants are real, however, the fear of vaccination can occur even when limited information is disseminated which was true in the relation of autism and the MMR vaccine.   In 1998, a single research study was published by Andrew Wakefield that indicated that the MMR vaccine caused autism which was brought forth to the public through media outlets. The study has since been deemed fraudulent; however, the fear generated from this study has not dissipated. Even with the vaccination success of the total eradication of smallpox and the almost eradicated polio, there is still resistance to the use of vaccines even though the benefits tremendously outweigh the risk. Unfortunately, unless the majority of the population complies with the vaccination program, outbreaks of measles and other diseases will continue to be a problem.


There’s believable, credible evidence that Oschner’s project was supposed to be about developing a vaccine against SV-40 to help prevent soft tissue cancer in children who were administered the Salk-Sabin vaccine against polio in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  This vaccine was mistakenly grown on cancer-causing diseased monkey kidneys.  However, evidence suggests that Oschner’s true project was more akin to a ‘New Orleans’s Manhattan Project’ and was really about developing a secret biological warfare agent to use against Communism.  It is clear that Sherman and Ferrie conducted research in the irradiation of Simian Virus 40 or SV-40 in a secret lab.-Viral Intent


Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: Toxic New Year with a score of 4.88

Least Favorite in the series: Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center with a score of 4.66

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Barnes and Nobles, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

#1-Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center- 2013

Listed #4 out of 111 on Goodreads Best Medical Thrillers Book List

First Line:

The pungent smell of Cajun spices permeated the February New Orleans air.


Characters

Alexander Destephano: Lawyer with a nursing background and is the legal counsel for Crescent City Medical Center

Don Montgomery: CEO of Crescent City Medical Center

Dr. Robert Bonnet: Head of surgery and Destephano’s ex-husband

Mitch Landry: Destephano’s latest love interest

Bette Farve: Head nurse

Jack Francoise: Police detective with the New Orleans police department

Dr. Monique Desmonde: Head of the psychiatric unit at the CCMC


The Setting

New Orleans


It’s Mardi Gras in post-Katrina New Orleans. With only one week until the big day, thousands of tourists have flocked to the city, paralyzing traffic and jamming the French Quarter with drunken crowds and garbage. City officials are hoping for record crowds to generate the biggest boost to the Crescent City since the “big storm.” Alexander Lee Destephano, legal counsel for Crescent City Medical Center, a prestigious, world-class hospital, is excitedly anticipating her third Mardi Gras Season and most of all, her date with dashing art historian Mitch Landry. The couple has tickets to the Edition Extravaganza, the biggest Mardi Gras Ball in New Orleans at the Super Dome on Saturday evening. After several years, life is good again and Alex is determined to experience everything it has to offer. She can hardly wait until Saturday evening. But, things change. Alex is stat-paged to the Medical Center at 6:00 am on Monday morning only to learn from her boss, Don Montgomery and her former husband, Dr. Robert Bonnet that Grace Raccine, a cancer patient at CCMC and the first lady of Louisiana has been found unconscious in her room covered with blood. To make matters worse, patients are leaving CCMC against medical advice and staff are refusing to work creating crisis and chaos in the Obamacare hospital environment. By the end of the day, the much anticipated night with Mitch Landry dancing under the lights at the Endymion Ball is the last things on Alex’s mind!


Looking for reviews for Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center? Check out:

Miki’s Hope


Amazon Rating-US: 4.59 out of 5 stars based on 73 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.90 out of 5 stars based on 30 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.64 out of 5 stars based on 124 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: not rated

Library Thing Rating: 4.80 out of 5 stars based on 5 rating

Total Score 4.66  (updated 4/3/16)

DNA2

#2-The Imposter- 2013

Listed #9 out of 111 on Goodreads Best Medical Thrillers Book List

Listed #85 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

First Line:

“Holy shit, Mary, Mother of God!


Characters

Alexander Destephano, Don Montgomery, Dr. Robert Bonnet, Bette Farve, Jack Francoise and Dr. Monique Desmonde

Lester Whitset: Head administrator for the CCMCs psychiatric unit the Pavilion


The Setting

New Orleans


It is hotter than hell in New Orleans and newly promoted NOPD Commander Jack Francoise is battling horrific crime in the Vieux Carre in the August heat. At Crescent City Medical Center’s Psychiatric Pavilion, nursing staff are constantly doling out Thorazine Slurpees and Geodon shots to some of the most criminally insane and viciously psychotic patients in the South. Alexandra Destephano, a registered nurse and legal counsel for CCMC, is concerned about inadequate staff and safety issues in The Pavilion. So, she enlists the help of her former husband, dashing surgeon Robert Bonnet, in her battle against Lester Whitset, the odd and often bizarre Pavilion administrator. In the meantime, staff and patients are being brutally beaten and killed at Crescent City Medical Center and Alex must set aside her feelings about the chronic understaffing at the hospital as she works with Jack, Robert, and others to bring the perpetrators to justice.


The voices had completely taken over his head. In his mind, he again saw Dr. Desmonde turn to plastic in front of him. He was going to have to do what the voices told him to do. The imposter shrink had to be stopped. After all wasn’t that his mission? He was supposed to get rid of all the imposters.


Amazon Rating-US: 4.77 out of 5 stars based on 73 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.90 out of 5 stars based on 41 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.71 out of 5 stars based on 78 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: not reviewed

Library Thing Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 3 rating

Total Score 4.77  (updated 4/18/17)

DNA3

#3-Viral Intent- 2014

Listed #2 on out of 111 on Goodreads Best Medical Thrillers Book List

First Line:

Sandy!


Characters

Alexander Destephano, Don Montgomery, Dr. Robert Bonnet, Bette Farve, Jack Francoise and Dr. Monique Desmonde


The Setting

New Orleans


An unidentified virus in the CCMC Emergency Department is killing dozens of people, a horrific death of a popular politician in the French Quarter has the NOPD hopping, and internet chatter suggesting the unspeakable has chilled the hearts of law enforcement all over the world. Read how Alex and Jack learn to play well with the CDC, FBI, and Secret Service to save the streets of New Orleans.


Looking for reviews for Viral Intent? Check out:

RectorWriter’s Blog


Amazon Rating-US: 4.89 out of 5 stars based on 59 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.96 out of 5 stars based on 28 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.72 out of 5 stars based on 103 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: not reviewed

Library Thing Rating: 4.60 out of 5 stars based on 5 rating

Total Score 4.78  (updated 4/3/16)

molecule

Toxic_New_Year#4-Toxic New Year: The Day That Would Never End- 2015

First Line:

The day dawned dark and dismal.


The party of the year in the rural Virginia countryside turns into a day of horror as the enemies of Alex’s grandfather, Congressman Adam Patrick Smith, bring the war to his Virginia estate killing, maiming and destroying every thing in their path.


Looking for reviews for Toxic New Year? Check out:

Michael’s Inspiration


Amazon Rating-US: 4.88 out of 5 stars based on 62 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.88 out of 5 stars based on 43 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.88 out of 5 stars based on 40 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: not reviewed

Library Thing Rating: not reviewed

Total Score 4.88  (updated 4/18/17)

2 thoughts on “Judith Lucci’s Alexandra Destephano Series

  1. Hi, Many, thanks for your review of my books and placing them on our blog.. I know it took a considerable amount of time. Believe me, I have learned my lesson about the use of the word “hot” and have been dinged before. Thanks for reinforcing it so I won’t use it again.
    I am now writing under the name of Judith Lucci and have a new book coming out soon.
    Best, Judith

    1. Ha, Ha, the ‘hot’ comments did make me laugh and the sarcastic person that I am, I couldn’t help myself to comment on it.

      I think Lucci is a great pen name as I don’t know how many times I had to double check numerous times to make sure I was spelling Rocchiccioli correctly. I will update my title to reflect that change.

      I am looking forward to the next addition to the series, I really like your creepy bad guys-Lester Whitset made my skin crawl.

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