By Paul Katz
Updated February 16, 2007 05:00 AM

Remember that urban legend about a guy who wakes up in a bathtub filled with ice and discovers that someone’s stolen his kidney? Michael Palmer’s thriller The Fifth Vial runs with the myth. Dr. Natalie Reyes falls victim to a seemingly random attack in Rio de Janeiro that leaves her missing a lung and searching for answers; meanwhile, Chicago private detective Ben Callahan tracks a medical conglomerate kidnapping people to harvest their organs for recipients who ”best serve mankind.” The dual story lines meander a bit before the final showdown, but Palmer’s black-market bogeymen offer a terrifying vision of the Hippocratic oath gone very wrong. B