A biotech thriller by Goshgarian (Atlantis Fire, 1980), undone by cardboard characters and an overblown plot. English professor Calvin Hazzard and wife Terry have just sold their suburban Boston house for an astonishing $600,000--a figure more than six times what they paid for it. This unheard-of profit, along with Calvin's lucrative new teaching post in New York, makes life indeed seem good--until the couple's 12-year-old son, Matty, turns moody, irritable, and, in literally a few weeks, possessor of a grown man's physique. Moreover, while Matty is becoming ever more aggressive, at one point savagely attacking his schoolmates, the family's trees and flowers are dying or mutating, and small animals in a local wood are on a vicious rampage. An eternity later, the Hazzards figure out that something is wrong. Calvin thinks they're living atop the next Love Canal, but all water and soil tests come back negative. Meanwhile, sadistic hit man Jerry Mars (the novel's best-realized element) becomes suspicious over the contracts he gets to kill three aging and seemingly harmless microbiologists. Before he murders one of them, the victim reveals that all three worked on a secret government project during the Vietnam War to produce a ``genocide virus'' through a company called BiOmega Labs. A failure, the project was discontinued, but not before containers of liquid virus were buried under what is now the Hazzard property- -containers that have begun to leak. Eventually, Mars's backtracking leads him to the White House, where he'll attempt to blackmail officials who were once involved with the president's heading-up of the project. Doomsday chemicals and government cover-ups, potentially fearful, are made silly and unintentionally comic more than once. Despite its earnestness, third-rate Crichton.