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A complicated tale, simply and well told, “King Death” is Toby Litt’s 12th work of fiction, the “K” in his alphabetic collection and the second of his novels to be set mostly in a hospital.

What hospitals provide as an arena for fiction is what life provides — birth, life, sickness and death. Hospital settings also allow the author to investigate the body, internally rather than externally, and Litt comes up with a visceral blood-and-guts story of blackmail, murder, vengeance, and justice. He also throws in a potted biography of the poet John Keats’ career in medicine or what stood for medicine in the 19th century.

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