A doctor and her cousin get caught up in murder, mysterious illnesses and nefarious people collecting snake venom in Raynes’ debut medical thriller.
Dr. Claudia Ranelli, in her first-year fellowship at a Texas hospital’s Clinical Hematology department, has a bad sexual encounter with Chance, whom she met in San Francisco. She awakens in an ICU at San Francisco General, having bled profusely and remembering that Chance’s genitals were “a snake. At least it looked like one, like a snake head writhing on a stalk, and I saw him put his hand on it to stop the movement.” Things aren’t any better back home in South Texas: Her cousin Dru spends time with a strange tattooed man and won’t return Claudia’s messages; her friend and co-worker Jeff disappears; and she suspects that Chance is following her. Soon, both she and Dru are being threatened by a geneticist who knew Claudia’s late father, also a scientist. This formidable thriller boasts a laudable protagonist who’s smart and resourceful; when Claudia realizes that she’s been trailed by a biker on more than one occasion, she has an automatic garage door opener and security system installed at her house and starts sleeping with a Beretta under her pillow. Despite numerous references to Sherlock Holmes—the cousins flippantly calling each other Sherlock; Claudia names a villain Moriarty—Claudia is much closer to a hard-boiled detective. She and Dru excel at surveillance and footwork, creeping into houses and onto private property with relative ease. Claudia’s first-person narrative is rife with the cool indifference of a seasoned gumshoe, like bringing her gun and “a few Band-Aids in case I shot myself.” Her skills and intellect help shape the plot—she uses gene mutation to tie together some of the unexplained events, including what happened with her and Chance—while informing some of the medically relevant metaphors, as when she’s “feeling as dark as an old bloody emesis.” Raynes provides extra tension, too, when second-year fellow Julie Jennings expresses interest in Dr. Stephen Palmer, the same man with whom Claudia eventually finds herself romantically entangled. A couple of the subplots are, disappointingly, not adequately resolved, but most readers won’t notice; they’ll be too caught up in following the plucky heroine into a dark room filled with snakes.
An impressive thriller driven by a resplendent heroine.