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Harry Benedict, a department head at the National Microbiology Laboratory in England’s Regis-on-Sea General Hospital, seems to attract misfortune. His live-in lover Tania died in a car crash two months ago. Now his year-old son Peter is in the hospital with a virulent ear infection. When the standard antibiotics fail to work, the job of finding an effective one is given to Richard Kelso, a fellow scientist and longtime enemy of Harry’s. Much lab testing finally produces the right medication, and Kelso puts it in the computer. Following the use of that information, baby Peter dies in the night: it seems that the computer finding was somehow changed, producing the fatal result. A day later, Benedict and Kelso come to blows. Kelso dies—possibly by accident—but Benedict is charged with murder and is now out on bail. Meanwhile, the Department of Health has sent Inspector Tom Jones (The Ladies of the Vale, 1995, etc.), who knows his way around computers, to look into the business. This he does, at tedious length—interviewing Benedict’s ex-girlfriend Amina Khatoon; his new squeeze Sally Yate (both on the staff); hospital head Dr. Crowe, lab manager Joy Manners, and others. Tom comes up with a lightning-fast way of changing material in the computer, but in the middle of it all Benedict seems on the verge of suicide. There’s another death, a confession, a final denouement that defies belief, and a conventional happy ending. Loads of technical computer-jargon here, but the author’s flair for intricate plots and personalities keeps this one moderately intriguing.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20586-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999