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Husband-and-wife writing team Jim and Carolyn Hougan have done good work under the Case pseudonym (The First Horseman, 1998, etc.), but they stumble here with an overlong thriller about brain implants and other mind-boggling developments.

Lew McBride is about to have his head handed to him with a certain little something added. It’s called a “neurophonic prosthesis,” and, in effect, it renders him lame-brained, the robotized tool of a collection of mysterious bad guys. There he was, a brilliant young psychological researcher (handsome, too) in Zurich to confer with the directors of the Prudhomme Clinic about his grant—and the next thing you know evil people have him strapped to a chair and are hovering over him with needles and other sharp things, preparing his face for “degloving.” (Don’t ask.) When he wakes he’s no longer Lew McBride, nor is he in Zurich. He’s now Dr. Jeff Duran, a clinical psychologist in New York with only two patients—both, as it turns out, fellow automatons. So what’s it all about? Mind control, yes, but to what end? With the aid of the equally brilliant (beautiful, too) Adrienne Cope, Lew/Jeff begins the painfully slow process of reclaiming his identity and unraveling the fiendish conspiracy that he’s an unwilling part of. In the process, he learns about a secret government licensed-to-kill program, rooted in WWII counterintelligence that had as its targets such heinous types as Hitler and Mussolini. He also learns about the Jericho Project, an updated version of Assassinations R Us, but with targets dear to the hearts of hate-mongering bigots. Fistfights, gun-fights, and disappearing corpses offer only patches of excitement before the trail finally leads back to Zurich for the obligatory slam-bang finish and lover’s clinch.

Strip off the biomedical razzle-dazzle, and what’s left is old-hat megalomaniac melodrama.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-345-43308-4
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2001


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