In Bickerstaff’s complex country-jumping biotech thriller, a potential revolutionary new process in the food industry could result in big bucks for some and murder for others.
Something doesn’t smell right at SeaPro Ltd, and it’s not just the black fiddle fish the Scottish company uses in its enzyme research. Biochemist and judo enthusiast Gavin Shawlens, who has “a passion for enzymes,” recently agreed to work with SeaPro, not because the company developed a new process using fish enzymes that might transform the food industry, but because the singular love of his life, Emma Patersun, owns the company. One drawback is she owns it with her husband, Jim. Another hitch is that powerful people, including billionaire James Barscadden, want control of SeaPro’s potentially lucrative discovery. Barscadden is a darling of the British government; his massive food-manufacturing company, BARSCO, employs more than 8,000 Brits. It also has at its core a secret organization known as Gyge’s Ring run by Barscadden, who “recruited a group of handpicked Ring leaders to do his bidding slavishly.” His mission is to take control at any cost of SeaPro’s new process. But he has competition. Other nations also want to snag the process, even if it’s fatally flawed. Like Barscadden, Shawlens is a member of a secret organization. He belongs to the Lambeth Group, a covert concern that works with MI5 to suss out possible technology disasters, and SeaPro’s new process just might be a doozy. Bickerstaff (Toxic Minds, 2016, etc.) writes with authority on biochemistry, and he has a flair for physical descriptions. One character “spread herself out over their bed like a sad old walrus” and another’s “white open-necked shirt would have benefitted from a quick once over with an iron.” The romance resumed by Emma and Gavin is sensual, with pet names for privates, and dialogue is believable. The story would have benefitted by being simpler, however. An abundance of characters, locales, and maneuvers make the book, written in British English, more work and less punchy.
An auspicious beginning to an intelligent thriller series with a likable, oddball lead.