A tightly plotted but clumsily written debut thriller by a husband-and-wife team with high-profile careers in forensic pathology and law.
Baden (former New York City medical examiner; chief forensics pathologist for the Congressional investigations into the assassinations of JFK and MLK; host of HBO’s Autopsy) and Kenney (civil-rights and criminal lawyer; frequent Court TV talking head) offer dual—and sometimes dueling—protagonists: Dr. Jake Rosen is New York’s deputy chief medical examiner, a rumpled, absent-minded professor type, while Philomena “Manny” Manfreda is a brassy, expensively clothed civil-rights litigator. The only thing they have in common is that they seem to have marched onto the page straight from central casting. Rosen is summoned to the upstate town where his revered mentor lives to assist in the investigation of human bones unearthed during the building of a mall, and he and Manfreda are soon unraveling a decades-long conspiracy involving Cold War–era medical experiments, the mentor’s dark secrets and, more recently, the local sheriff’s suspicious hostility to a forensic investigation that’s holding up construction on a high-dollar development. (In their downtime, the pair yield to their grudging mutual attraction and—surprise!—hook up.) If read simply for story, the twists come reliably and the pages breeze by. But much of it is disposable. The authors have a fatal knack for broad, pulpy prose that robs their characters of the subtlety that would make them come alive. And interior thoughts (“Too late. Dear God, forgive me. Too late,” as Jake says after finding a friend dead) are expressed with the nuance of a wrecking ball.
Light and not terribly original.