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BAD CHEMISTRY by Gary Krist

BAD CHEMISTRY

By Gary Krist

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44931-0
Publisher: Random House

 A model husband's disappearance plunges his never-say-die wife into agitation, mystery, danger, designer-drug intrigue, and trouble with the local cops. And Joel Baker's disappearance isn't the only sign of trouble. First, somebody ruins his dog's birthday party by throwing kerosene at his partner Don Fordham's Labrador, Pearlie, and setting him aflame. Later that night, Joel goes out to the Safeway for this and that and doesn't return. When somebody breaks into the Baker house the following day and wipes the hard drive on Joel's computer clean, Kate Baker, who's relieved her tension by clocking one of the investigating officers, has to face the possibility that her husband of three years--the '60s rebel who plowed his idealism into venture capitalism with an accent on experimental drugs--has been leading a secret life. Even if Joel's had secrets from Kate, though, she's in a good position to figure them out: Before coming east to Virginia and their whirlwind courtship, she was a uniformed cop from a long line of Chicago cops, and now--shaken by the disappearance of Don Fordham--she teams up with an unlikely ally, disturbed teenager Evan Potter, the boy who discovered a headless corpse in the woods near his Franklin home but kept his discovery secret for several days. (No, the corpse isn't Joel; it's a Johns Hopkins biochemist the police think Joel may have killed.) An inconclusive search for clues among Joel's effects, a second break-in, and a creepy online chat with the intruder (now calling himself ``Dr. Feelgood'') send Kate and Evan hurtling toward a climactic face-to-face with a self-styled pharmacological messiah, a made-for-TV shootout, and a bittersweet epilogue that mines psychological territory familiar from Krist's two story collections (Bone by Bone, 1994, etc.). For most of the ride, though, it's strictly efficient formula suspense.