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.