"A smart, timely thriller …"– Kirkus Reviews
With scheming scientists, abductions and romance, this globe-trotting debut thriller has something for everyone.
Early one evening in Arès, a quiet French village near the Atlantic coast, a retired nuclear power worker and stamp trader named Claude Moreau disappears while cycling home. When he’s discovered the next morning, he has no memory of where he’s been, but he has a hypodermic mark in his left shoulder, a sedative in his blood and a puncture in one of his veins. Unbeknownst to the fisherman, it was a casual conversation he’d had months before with a doctor specializing in nuclear medicine that placed him in the middle of an international race to perfect an anti-radiation medication. When Moreau chatted with the doctor, René Ebadi, about stamps in the Bordeaux Public Garden, Moreau mentioned that he’d been exposed to radiation. Although his co-workers’ tests showed signs of exposure, his did not. Ebadi bought a stamp and jogged home but started to wonder “if there was more to his non-reaction to the radiation exposure than he had let on, or was even aware of.” Simultaneously, in Pittsburgh, an American biotech company named Mirrenzyme was trying to bring its own anti-radiation medication to market. When one of Ebadi’s subordinates attends the European International Radiation Protection Association Congress in Paris, Mirrenzyme’s security team learns about the existence of a nuclear power worker with a suspected natural immunity to radiation. The possibility of a naturally occurring protein that could protect humans from radiation sets the novel’s main events in motion. Greenham takes the reader around the world as his characters endure abductions, fall in love and conduct scientific research. Will the French or the Americans be the first to develop a medication that can protect humans from radiation? The suspenseful opening scene successfully draws readers in, making them concerned for Moreau’s fate. Greenham also has a knack for weaving complex scientific and legal information into the narrative. For example, the consequences of radiation exposure are explained when, after being exposed to a dirty bomb, a U.S. senator discusses his test results with a doctor. Elsewhere, the otherwise breakneck pace is occasionally slowed by Greenham’s choice to dip into the thoughts of too many minor characters. For instance, at one point, he dives into the thoughts of Ebadi’s assistant, who plays a small role in the plot. These kinds of digressions occur too frequently for an otherwise taut actioner.
A smart, timely thriller that would benefit from less meandering into the minds of secondary characters.
In this whodunit, a Supreme Court justice is found dead in his study, shot through the head. Unfortunately, a lot of people wanted him gone.
Greenham (The Fisherman’s Stamp, 2012) doesn’t try for anything particularly visionary in this solid, well-paced thriller. But that’s fine: There’s enough in his complex, intelligent plot to grab and hold readers’ attention. Fans of Law & Order will appreciate how detectives Chambeau and Mignelli parse the crime scene with rapid-fire questioning of witnesses—Justice King’s wife and the U.S. Marshalls hired to protect him—and how they methodically widen their circle of inquiry. As it turns out, the question of who would want to murder a Supreme Court justice is easy to answer: nearly everyone. King, a staunch conservative, alienated his children and made few friends on or off the bench during his long career. Greenham cleverly weaves in references to real, lightning-rod decisions related to Citizens United, Heller v. District of Columbia, the Defense of Marriage Act and the right to habeas corpus for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, each demonstrating the judge’s inflexible ideology, which he also applied to the personal lives of his daughter and two sons. Could one of them have dispatched the hated patriarch and cashed in on an inheritance in one quick blow? But then there’s also the maid who was deported, the mysterious piano player, the alienated law clerk and many others under the umbrella of suspicion. Greenham allows the leads to develop in a convincingly real-time way, with Chambeau and Mignelli’s interrogation style underscoring their no-stone-unturned approach; readers will eagerly try to stay one step ahead of the investigation. There’s nothing remarkable about Greenham’s prose—he doesn’t achieve that breathless tension that propels readers through the best of the genre—but he capably delivers the goods.
Entertaining and topical; a smart, satisfying read.