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 The robbing of cradle and grave is a centerpiece plot device in an oddly lifeless biotech thriller from Stein (The Magic Bullet, 1994, etc.). Back home again in Edwardstown, New Hampshire, after a successful stint as a big-city journalist, Sally Benedict is happily married to high-school teacher Mark, expecting her first child, and running the local weekly. When she learns that corpses have been removed from the municipal burial grounds under cover of darkness, however, she immediately fears that there's more to these desecrations than teenage vandalism. Sally's instincts are right. Two fanatic researchers who traced a longevity gene to the female line of Sally's family have been exhuming her forebears to reproduce the gene in their Manchester lab. Nor are the mad scientists unaware that Sally will soon produce a baby that could prove a vital source of tissue for their unholy project. But stonewalled by Edwardstown's venal police chief and dissuaded by R. Patrick Holt (a self-absorbed ex-colleague known for his coverage of life-span issues), the mother-to-be almost gives up on the story. Then, despite Mark's concern that she may be in the grip of pregnancy-induced hysteria, she revives the dormant inquiry after the sudden death of an aggressive young colleague and the mysterious post-operative demise of her own mother. Clueless Mark is eventually persuaded to bear a hand in the investigation, and the fiendish conspiracy comes quickly undone as Sally fights off the would-be kidnapper of her newborn in the obstetrics ward at Edwardstown General. A bestseller bid that, for all its plausible detail on designer genes, is unevenly paced, hastily resolved, and fatally deficient in the suspense area. (Literary Guild featured alternate selection)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-31476-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1996


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by Harry Stein