With scheming scientists, abductions and romance, this globe-trotting debut thriller has something for everyone.
Early one evening in Arès, a quiet French village near the Atlantic coast, a retired nuclear power worker and stamp trader named Claude Moreau disappears while cycling home. When he’s discovered the next morning, he has no memory of where he’s been, but he has a hypodermic mark in his left shoulder, a sedative in his blood and a puncture in one of his veins. Unbeknownst to the fisherman, it was a casual conversation he’d had months before with a doctor specializing in nuclear medicine that placed him in the middle of an international race to perfect an anti-radiation medication. When Moreau chatted with the doctor, René Ebadi, about stamps in the Bordeaux Public Garden, Moreau mentioned that he’d been exposed to radiation. Although his co-workers’ tests showed signs of exposure, his did not. Ebadi bought a stamp and jogged home but started to wonder “if there was more to his non-reaction to the radiation exposure than he had let on, or was even aware of.” Simultaneously, in Pittsburgh, an American biotech company named Mirrenzyme was trying to bring its own anti-radiation medication to market. When one of Ebadi’s subordinates attends the European International Radiation Protection Association Congress in Paris, Mirrenzyme’s security team learns about the existence of a nuclear power worker with a suspected natural immunity to radiation. The possibility of a naturally occurring protein that could protect humans from radiation sets the novel’s main events in motion. Greenham takes the reader around the world as his characters endure abductions, fall in love and conduct scientific research. Will the French or the Americans be the first to develop a medication that can protect humans from radiation? The suspenseful opening scene successfully draws readers in, making them concerned for Moreau’s fate. Greenham also has a knack for weaving complex scientific and legal information into the narrative. For example, the consequences of radiation exposure are explained when, after being exposed to a dirty bomb, a U.S. senator discusses his test results with a doctor. Elsewhere, the otherwise breakneck pace is occasionally slowed by Greenham’s choice to dip into the thoughts of too many minor characters. For instance, at one point, he dives into the thoughts of Ebadi’s assistant, who plays a small role in the plot. These kinds of digressions occur too frequently for an otherwise taut actioner.
A smart, timely thriller that would benefit from less meandering into the minds of secondary characters.