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.