In Froning’s debut medical thriller, a neurosurgical resident joins a drug research team that stumbles on a murderous conspiracy.
Dr. Steve August is excited by the prospect of working for the Angion Corporation, a private biotech company developing a purported cure for brain cancer called Angiotox. Angion has had positive early results, but Steve’s experiments with mice lead him to speculate that the drug may be ineffective. Scientist George MacGregor, who’s Angion’s principal owner, and mobster/financier Antonio Calibri really need Angiotox to work, as a meeting with Swiss investors looms. Calibri’s thuggish henchman, Michael Riker, starts monitoring Steve and his attorney girlfriend, Morgan Najar—just in case Angion needs to ensure the neurosurgeon’s silence. This thriller is a medical mystery with the juicy bits of an espionage story. The Angiotox question soon takes a back seat to all sorts of shady goings-on. The story includes an apparent bum who seems to be shadowing Steve; a blackmailer; and James Bond–esque gadgetry, such as a “Wall-Walker” that can listen to people’s conversations and track their movements. After the Science Service, an odd gathering of scientists led by MacGregor, and government agent Winston Schmidt wiggle their ways into the story, it becomes more about Steve’s survival than exposing the truth about Angiotox. Froning offers quite a few additional subplots, and they’re often unpredictable; even the bad guys are surprised when someone sends Morgan shocking photos, for example. Steve is a solid protagonist who, at one point, endures a covert psychological assault involving sleep deprivation; his shrewd counterattack makes for a rousing turn. The villains are likewise indelible: MacGregor is frighteningly methodical, Riker is sadistic and merciless, and Calibri’s tendency to draw out his S’s (“Yesss”) is reminiscent of a hissing snake. The climax is nearly overloaded with characters, but Froning still manages to resolve things with a fantastic coda.
A confident story that keeps its plot and protagonist moving—and its readers reading.