JUDGMENT DAY by Patrick Reinken

JUDGMENT DAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Predictable but carefully drawn genre-surfing bio-thriller featuring an affectionate portrait of Minnesota and southwestern scenery--all in a first novel crowded with odd characters and bloody incidents. When top pharmaceutical scientist Alexander Tomlin crashes through his 11th floor office window, only Jon Patchett, a hard- drinking, world-weary lawyer, wonders if Tomlin jumped or was pushed. Tomlin was working on the oddly named Prohiva, an HIV vaccine that is nearing what the drug industry calls judgment day (full approval from the FDA). Because Patchett's firm represents Weber BioTech, the Minneapolis drug company behind Prohiva, Patchett is ordered to conduct discreet inquiries, if only to make sure that nothing happens to affect the drug's approval. Patchett becomes romantically drawn to his coolly competent paralegal assistant Anne Matheson; the two discover a cover-up in Weber's Arizona drug development lab. Meanwhile, a handful of middle and underclass types, such as de rigueur noir prostitute Maggie Washburn, are being hunted down and killed before their nagging coughs develop into virulent cases of AIDS. Add to this a pathetically perverse serial killer named the Barber, who strangles female joggers and then clips their hair. Is it a coincidence that one of the Barber's victims was Tomlin's lover, Rebecca Cartaway? Or has the author tried to pack too many genre conventions into his tale? This first novel becomes Hillermanesque as action shifts to the Arizona desert, where a dreamy Navajo child and a guilt-ridden physician help Patchett and Washburn reveal how a hideously dangerous batch of the drug has escaped laboratory controls. Reinken escapes his burdensome kitchen-sink plot with convincing glimpses of industry insiders and just-plain-folks affected by the reckless pursuit of profits. Overplotted legal/medical/psychokiller/city vs. Navajo desert whodunit, with better-than-average characterization, a more reasoned take on medical research than Robin Cook's, and a reluctant lawyer hero who, thankfully, doesn't sleep with his clients.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-80762-9
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996