Rogers’ (Petroplague, 2013) characters must escape the dangers of deadly disease, dangerous wildlife and vicious criminals in this tense medical thriller.
Tessa Price is a brilliant doctor, but an intense phobia of needles and the loss of her infant son to genetic disease have left her with more than enough reason to keep her distance from patients and colleagues. But even if her work is mostly behind the microscope, she desperately wants to help people. When one of her colleagues falls ill just as an experimental gene therapy starts showing results, she rushes to the front lines. The patient, a boy named Gunnar, is showing remarkable improvement in an experimental clinic in Mexico, but while the Palacio clinic avoids American law that would delay Price’s experiments, it comes with its own share of problems. The clinic’s proprietor, Dr. Manuel Vargas, relies on local cartels for medical narcotics. He agrees to treat a kingpin and ends up plunging the Palacio into a drug war. If there’s any real weakness here, it’s Vargas himself. The use of multiple perspectives gives the novel flexibility, but Vargas’ boundless self-interest is so deplorable that he quickly become tiresome. Meanwhile, Price finds herself trapped, hiding from the gangsters along with Gunnar, his mother, a friend and a few other unfortunate—but highly capable—Palacio clients. Matters only get worse as a mysterious illness takes hold of lab animals and people alike, leading them to violence and death. Price wrestles with her deepest dreams and fears, eventually discovering that there may be a connection between her gene therapy and the contagion—a connection that could save or condemn them all. Overall, the novel is an enjoyable ride, remaining tense and exciting without feeling overly dark or oppressive. And while the science is a consistent presence, it’s easy to understand, enriching the story. A rabies plotline unfolds with enough nuance to avoid major pitfalls. And if some sections drag, the payoff is well worth the wait.
A smart, tightly written, scary science thriller.