A genetic algorithm intended as a cure for cancer becomes part of someone’s nefarious and deadly experiments in this techno-thriller.
After losing both parents to cancer, oncologist Dr. Juan Gutierrez devoted his life to finding a cure. While researching generations of species at the pharmaceutical company AgriMed, Juan uncovers an evolutionary pattern. From this, he derives an algorithm that he hopes will combat cancer. Meanwhile, FBI Special Agent Nate Carrington is investigating cases of lethal attacks by animals, such as dogs and birds. These cases are linked by the animals’ DNA evidence, which suggests some form of genetic manipulation. Nate soon determines that someone has pilfered Juan’s algorithm for experiments that ultimately include human subjects. To make matters worse, the stolen algorithm is an older, less stable version and leads to a number of people becoming infected with a life-threatening virus. One of the stricken may be Juan’s new romantic interest, Kathy O’Reilly, who happens to be a survivor of an animal attack. She and her Nevada rancher parents, Frank and Megan, are unwitting participants in an experiment that puts many in danger. Nate and Juan have little time to find the culprit and a cure before the death count among humans starts rising exponentially. Rothman’s (Perimeter, 2018, etc.) tale moves at a steady clip. Dialogue, in particular, is concise; in one scene, Juan converses with his boss over the phone and police officers in person, and the concurrent exchanges are clear and coherent. Scientific terminology is likewise comprehensible, thanks to the author supplying context or Juan simply explaining terms to an individual. While characters are dynamic, especially the O’Reillys, the most memorable is Jasper, a stray dog Frank and Megan take in. Readers know from the beginning that the hyper-intelligent canine is a lab escapee. But despite Jasper’s tie to the experiments, Rothman zeros in on his empathy and fierce loyalty, traits that make his human counterparts even more likable. In useful addenda, the author elucidates on two subjects from the narrative, genetically modified organisms and gene therapy.
A smart, engrossing tale that entertainingly uses science.