Public antagonists become conspirators as a medical entrepreneur performs a controversial operation on a duplicitous politician.
In an afterword, Cook (<\I>Shock, 2001, etc.) warns us that political prohibitions against embryonic stem-cell research are misinformed and will only make things worse. Here, they’re bad enough for Dr. David Lowell, a brilliant, egotistical, and bit greedy researcher who quits Harvard to found a struggling for-profit company that will, he hopes, make millions when it develops a complicated technique involving embryonic cloning that has cured Parkinson’s in mice. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, antiabortion Senator Ashley Butler heads a subcommittee considering a bill that will ban the procedure. Called to testify before the committee, Dr. Lowell fails to persuade the senator that his technique isn’t killing babies, and Lowell is later contacted by the senator’s aide, Carol Manning, for a secret meeting. It turns out the senator has Parkinson’s and is willing to stall the bill in his committee, as well as pay hundreds of thousands in secret PAC money to Lowell and his sexy, competent lover and business partner, Dr. Stephanie D’Agostino, to perform the operation on him secretly, with two conditions: that this be done in the Bahamas at the new Wingate Clinic, and that the cloning involve DNA taken from blood residues on the Shroud of Turin. The senator offers to sponsor a bill limiting the amount of damages in lawsuits against charities—just as a New York cardinal wants in wake of the church’s sex scandals. Calls are made to the Vatican, and, while getting the sample in Turin, the doctors have their first of many brushes with danger, involving priests, Mafiosi, and other types tainted by incompetence, greed, and irrational fears. Despite all, the doctors actually pull off the operation, though Murphy’s Law takes over in ways no one can expect.
Typical Cook: lifeless dialogue, weak prose, and hokey plot, but a sound message: ambitious doctors and scheming politicians only increase the suffering that, deep down, both want to cure.