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DEAD END

It’s the ethicists squaring off against the moneychangers in a bristling, absorbing thriller. After 30-plus novels,...

Man vs. the pharmacogenomics machine.

Headhunters have lured dashing young scientist Richard Parnell—brilliant, charismatic and just arrogant enough to invite hubris—from England to become a rising star (read: profit-maker) at mighty Dubette, Inc., the humongous drug company. He’s to lead Dubette’s global genome project, aimed at converting human DNA research into product. A complex job, one that brings him into early confrontation with spiderish Dwight Newton, his boss. Newton likes it when underlings cringe, a view shared by his own boss, Edward C. Grant, Dubette’s Napoleonic president. Viewed originally as a potential cringer—isn’t everybody?—Parnell disappoints, then seriously annoys. Still, with reasonable caution, he picks his way through Dubette’s bureaucratic minefield. After all, he wants to do big science and has no real objection to getting rich; it’s just that, at the same time, he refuses to imperil bedrock principles, a position that causes an attractive Dubette researcher to become his ally. Though Rebecca Lang describes herself as very “back of the bus” in Dubette terms, Parnell welcomes her support—and, before long, finds himself welcome in her bed. They decide to live together, a plan horrifically terminated by Rebecca’s murder. Police believe her car was deliberately rear-ended and forced off the road into a deep plunge. Police further believe—supported by certain forensic evidence—that it was Parnell’s car that did the forcing. They posit a deadly resolution to a violent lovers’ quarrel. Parnell is arrested, cuffed and jailed: shocks brutal enough to crush the spirit of a lesser man. In Parnell’s DNA, however, there is sterner stuff, and he vows to unmask Rebecca’s killer, or what’s a scientific method for?

It’s the ethicists squaring off against the moneychangers in a bristling, absorbing thriller. After 30-plus novels, Freemantle (The Holmes Inheritance, 2004, etc.), one of the genre’s best pure storytellers, remains at the top of his game.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7278-6106-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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