A novel of scientific intrigue set on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
“A bright green glowing ribbon encircled the entire inlet like a water-bound version of the aurora borealis. The light came from the bioluminescent bodies of tiny arthropods, millions of them that pulsed in the shallow water. Their six-day life span was about to expire, and they were signaling one final time for a mate.” These are the Artemia lucis, born only once a century, prized by the native people of Olloo’et Island for their hallucinogenic and analgesic effects when ingested. Dr. Rachel Bell is a member of a research team from the University of Washington that's come to study the phenomenon, but that’s just her cover. Rachel suffers from devastating chronic pain, and from the moment she chokes down her first dose of hijacked arthropods—they taste like “a fish’s ass”—she's determined to breed the little fellas in captivity, first to save her own life, then to change the world. In order to hide her secret experiments from her fellow researchers, she moves out of their camp and into the guest room of a classical composer named Harry Streatfield, a man in the throes of a disabling neurological disorder that makes him another candidate for fishy pain relief. Also bunking at Harry’s is his ex-wife, Tilda, supposedly a former U.S. senator—this is one of several unconvincing plot points—who has come to take care of him. Ream (Losing Clementine, 2012) offers her three central characters little respite from misery: their pasts are scarred by tragedy, their presents are populated by jerks and villains, two of them are in constant pain, and the third is terminally cranky. They sure could use the miracle dangled by the book’s title.
A vivid setting, credible science, and flashes of dry wit aren’t enough to balance the gloom of this not-so-thrilling thriller.