An appealing tale of conspiracy and murder, occasionally interrupted by excessive particulars.

VERITAS: The Pharmacological Endgame

THE END OF THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC

Australian scientists develop of a vaccine to eradicate obesity, which ignites a swift and ultimately lethal response from an international pharmaceutical organization in Boccaletti’s (Big, Fat American Lion Book, 2016) thriller.

Biologist and medical researcher Dr. Alex Bauman is researching obesity at a university in Brisbane, Australia, along with Drs. Steve Mallony and Nigel McTaggart. Alex, at nearly 300 pounds, is himself obese, and he does technical diving training as exercise. During one dive, he collects a finger coral that apparently regulates fat in its cells as a defense against pollution and seasonally hot water temperatures. The scientists extract enzymes from the coral back at the lab and soon create a potential obesity vaccine. Alex subsequently agrees to be a guinea pig, and Steve and Nigel monitor him for 10 days following an injection. He not only loses 125 pounds, but also has a newfound “strong desire” to eat metabolism-boosting foods. After the group’s presentation to the university’s supervisory board, one board member calls Nero Poline, the CEO of the Stiffton Drug Corporation in the United States. Stiffton thrives by profiting from drugs for weight-related illnesses. Poline has powerful friends, including corrupt U.S. senator and presidential hopeful Marc Thwane, and belongs to global pharma organization ZEUS. Getting hold of the vaccine’s formula is one thing, but ZEUS’ board also deems it best to commission a retired SEAL team to kill Alex and the others. Boccaletti’s straightforward prose is intelligent and informative; he takes the topic of obesity seriously and organically moves the story on to other issues, such as climate change and alternative energy. However, the comprehensive details sometimes stall the narrative. A lengthy presentation, for example, breaks down obesity percentages by country and lists additional ailments that obesity can cause; Qatar bank owner Sharif Al-Khalifa appears as a potential ally for assassin-dodging Alex, but the specifics of his proposal for an environmentally friendly “smart city” do little to advance the plot. However, Alex’s global trek gives the story flavor with its ever-changing locales, including Russia and Dubai, while the assassins’ various murder attempts (using poisons from exotic animals, among other means) are morbidly entertaining.

An appealing tale of conspiracy and murder, occasionally interrupted by excessive particulars.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5328-6794-1

Page Count: 478

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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