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SECOND SEED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Physician Polan aims for the Robin Cook crowd in this first novel, a breathless thriller drenched in medical lore. And despite its wild, irksome implausibilities, her tale of a pregnant M.D. caught in a political whirlwind gallops along at a pace reminiscent of Cook's best. In a Mideast sheikdom, Aliza, the daughter of the dead sheik, lies in a coma, victim of an attack secretly ordered by her cousin, the evil Khalil Turek. By law, unless Aliza can bear a son within three years, Turek will ascend to the throne; so her husband, Hossein, agrees to a plan to extract eggs from Aliza's womb and fertilize them with his semen, treated to contain almost all male sperm. Meanwhile, Beth Danforth, a young married surgeon (whose dedication to her craft Polan demonstrates in several intricate and gory operating scenes) suffers a miscarriage; henceforth unable to conceive normally, she opts for a procedure similar to Aliza's, but with the fertilized egg being implanted in her womb. Beth gets pregnant and is gloriously happy until strange Arab-looking men start shadowing her--one trying, in an especially spooky scene, to stab her in a deserted parking lot--and until a beloved patient, and then her husband, are murdered. Panicked, Beth turns for help to her obstetrician, who tells her the terrible truth (which the reader has figured out long before): in her womb grows not her child, but the offspring of Aliza and Hossein, planted by the obstetrician. Polan never explains properly why Hossein decided to have Aliza's embryonic child placed in an unsuspecting mom, nor why Beth's doctor agreed to the plot. But neither Beth nor the reader has much time to be concerned about these questions as Beth is kidnapped by Turek--with whom she briefly falls in love, á la Patty Hearst--and then escapes his murderous grasp only to be captured by Hossein, who plans to spirit away her baby once it is born. A delightful last-second final twist makes room for the unexpected happy ending. Once disbelief is swallowed, great, silly, untaxing fun.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1987
Publisher: Scribners