OUT AT NIGHT by Susan Arnout Smith


Email this review


Forensic biologist Grace Descanso’s sophomore outing brings her up against a plan to adulterate the world’s soy crops.

As he’s being pursued to his death by a crossbow-wielding killer, Prof. Thaddeus Bartholomew, that activist scourge of genetically modified crops, manages to tap out a text message on his cell phone: “FIND GRACE DESCANSO.” The FBI, in the person of Grace’s estranged uncle, Pete, obligingly plucks her from the Caribbean vacation where she’d gone to recuperate from her maiden voyage (The Timer Game, 2008), leaving her daughter behind with the long-dismissed husband who’d turned up just in time. Back in Palm Springs, Grace finds that the cast of characters involved with Bartholomew includes Nate Malosky, the good professor’s teaching assistant, and his militant wife; Pete’s pregnant daughter; Grace’s AA sponsor, tattoo artist Jeanne Bigelow; and her boyfriend, Frank Waggaman, who sells organic soy seed when he’s not engineering new varieties in the lab. A second murder does nothing to clarify the murky loyalties of the eco-terrorists, and it’s not till Grace dopes out the plot that’s been planned to disrupt the agricultural convention Frank has organized that things get moving in an all-out attempt to avert a planetary scourge.

In the end, you have to wonder why Bartholomew was so eager to summon a “hotshot investigator” whose distinctiveness, like that of so many contemporary fictional sleuths, lies less in her remarkable deeds or abilities than in the perils that befall her.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-36834-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Minotaur
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2009