Forbidden Harvest: A Novel

When does a hero become a villain? In this new medical thriller, Peter Rizzolo’s character, Dr. Ken Bernholtz, is deep into preserving human organs for transplant. When the hospital where he spent his exemplary career refuses to condone his experiments, Dr. Bernholtz takes the law into his own hands.

This cliffhanger plot engages Bernholtz’s godson, Link, who at thirteen needs a new heart to survive, Link’s dad and his stunning grandmother Lydia, as well as the boy’s hospital friend Marty, a teenage cancer patient with a smart mouth and wild ideas.

Add a second hospital for Saudi patients here for transplant surgery, a young doctor and nurse who are threatened and stalked; a secret trip to London for a matching heart and Charlotte, a tough experienced attorney who takes Ken Bernholtz’s case after his hidden transplants come to light. In this blockbuster tale, Forbidden Harvest reveals what goes on behind the scene, from the hospital to the courtroom.

“Peter Rizzolo brings both his immense medical knowledge and deep compassion to this thoughtful and moving novel, skillfully written and deeply engaging throughout. His real and complex characters come to life on the page, giving his readers a deeper understanding of these timely issues that touch all our lives.”

—Lee Smith, The Last Girls

“Peter Rizzolo has written one hell of a story of medical and legal intrigue and the tender but tricky labyrinth of the human heart. The characters are wonderfully drawn–you can step right into them. Pitch-perfect details put the surgeon’s knife in your hands and the lawyer’s wit in your head. This novel is a terrific read. Get into it and you will not put it down.”

—Walter Bennett, Leaving Tuscaloosa


Imagine you’re Dr. Ken Bernholtz, a researcher and chief pathologist at Children’s Hospital where your 12-year-old godson, has had a heart attack, and is near death awaiting a donor heart.

Flash back two years when your life took a turn you could never have imagined. At your hospital many children die waiting in vain for a life-saving organ. There aren’t enough donors, and the heart, for example, remains viable for only four hours once removed from the body. You’ve perfected a method of preserving an animal heart from four to twenty-four hours, greatly expanding the area from which a heart can be retrieved, or harvested, as physicians call it.

Ken’s hospital, in the midst of a major expansion, and under pressure from radical protestors, refuses to allow him to experiment with human organs. He’s furious…at autopsy he holds in his hands organs he cannot use, because grieving parents often refuse to grant permission to enter their deceased child in the organ donor program.

At the risk of his career and despite not having the parent’s permission to do so, Ken begins to remove hearts, kidneys and livers, using some for research and sending others to a hospital where they save the lives of hundreds of children. But he cannot use any of those organs at his own hospital because transplant surgeons there meticulously research the donor source. Nor would the hospital use an organ retrieved from an area beyond which the organ would remain viable.

Link’s condition becomes desperate. After months of frantic searching, Ken locates a donor in London, England. But in order to retrieve the heart, he will expose his clandestine organ-preservation research. Ken must choose between the certainty of a shattered career and probable criminal prosecution, and the chance to save Link.

Advance praise for *Forbidden Harvest*

“In Peter Rizzolo’s new medical thriller, Dr. Ken Bernholtz is deep into preserving human organs for transplant. When the hospital where he has spent his exemplary career cancels his experiments, Bernholtz takes the law into his own hands. This fast-paced novel features multi-dimensional characters, intricate action, plus a surprising romance. Forbidden Harvest reveals what goes on behind the scenes, from operating room, to the morgue, to the courtroom.”

—Charlotte Hoffman, editor and writer
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