Murder at a Montana-based laboratory exposes the private grievances and fraternizations of the lab’s employees as well as a Russian plot to acquire biological weapons.
At the annual summer picnic for the Research Institute for Applied Immunology, Dr. Derek Meyer, the laboratory’s director of operations, is found dead in his car, the cause of death a mystery. Less than six months later, Dr. Jim Dellinger, the executive director of the same facility’s Department of Diagnostic Laboratories, is also found dead, shot in the back on the Institute’s grounds in Greeneville, Mont. Unequipped to deal with even the possibility of murder, the lab calls in the FBI to investigate, and agents find themselves immersed in a seemingly unremarkable workplace, where interoffice romances abound; even the genius scientists have the typical disdain for their bosses, whom they see as little more than financial officers and bureaucrats. Research at the lab is far from commonplace, however, and the feds soon find out the unassuming laboratory is ground zero for stem cell research, gene therapy and even the study of biological agents, making it a target for both industrial and international espionage. Heifets (African Exposure, 2010) uses the FBI’s questions to delve deeper into these subjects and numerous others ranging from Russian history to genetically modified foods as he attempts to use the veneer of a murder mystery to introduce these wide-ranging subjects. However, the dialogue they are presented in feels unnatural, more like dense lectures than conversations, with each lab employee just a little too polite, a little too cordial, especially for people dealing with the deaths of their co-workers while they themselves are possibly suspects. Though these long-winded discourses are frequently informative, well-researched, even timely, they dominate the novel so as to overpower its narrative, leaving little room for character development. When it is finally revealed that Russian spies are targeting the lab, the specifics seem anticlimactic because they have been given no more emphasis than anything else.
An abundance of information, little intrigue and even less drama.