Book review: SKELETON SEA by Toni Dwiggins

ScienceThrillers.com book review of Skeleton Sea by Toni Dwiggins.

BlueStar3

(very good; top 50% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Biohazard5

Publication date: August 26, 2015
Category: science-themed mystery/science thriller

Summary (from the book):

A mystery at sea plunges forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws into deadly waters.

When a boat is found deserted off the California coast, it looks to be a simple fishing accident. But there is nothing ordinary going on here. The geologists track the strange incident to an even stranger project. Someone with toxic skills is at work in this sea.

If the lethal project is completed, the outcome will be unstoppable.

ScienceThrillers review:

Skeleton Sea (The Forensic Geology Series) (Volume 4) by Toni Dwiggins is the best book yet in her series of mystery/thrillers featuring a pair of California forensic geologists. For someone like me who loves books in which real science drives the plot, this series is gold. As icing on the cake, Dwiggins’ stories are set in some of my favorite places in California, including (to date) Death Valley National Park, Mammoth Lakes, and now Morro Bay, a beautiful tourist and fishing town on the central coast between Big Sur and Santa Barbara.

Our heroes, Cassie and Walter, are summoned to the coast when a boat is found adrift at sea minus its pilot, and a key piece of evidence is a mineral residue on the boat’s side. They work closely with the local police and an assortment fascinating locals, most of whom could be suspects in the missing man’s death. The tone of the book is a mystery, with some momentum toward a thriller-type climax.

I find the specific plots of Dwiggins’ books to be somewhat confusing in the details, but the characters and scenes and science are so good that I’m willing to ignore the hazy parts. In Skeleton Sea, Dwiggins shows many examples of elegant writing (with science themes, no less!):

I looked out toward the horizon where the wave train started, far out to sea with winds upon the water. It was so primal I sank into some kind of sea memory of that dark water we all came from, which left its gill-slit mark on us for a time in the womb.

Dwiggins did her homework about scuba diving. In two separate underwater scenes, the experience is vivid and suffocating. Here, Cassie gets entangled in Central California kelp:

Blades and supple stalks seemed to caress me. The caresses tightened. Wrapped me. I was no longer moving forward. I kicked furiously. Not a fish. Don’t belong. Breathing hard, bubbles volcanic. If I had become entangled in brush on a hiking trail on a mountain path the way an air-breather should be hiking I could have yelled to my companions up ahead to wait. I couldn’t yell down here or I would drown. All I could do was hum. Theme from Jaws.

Main character Cassie takes on the role of amateur PI on top of her technical work as a geologist and has close encounters with a reclusive rich man who keeps a scanning electron microscope in his cliffside home; a mentally challenged young man who dreams of piloting his own ship; a green-haired slacker with secrets to hide; and a lot of very deadly jellyfish. With superb local color and science throughout, I recommend this book to anyone who has loved a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Other books in the Forensic Geology series by Toni Dwiggins:

Badwater; Volcano Watch; Quicksilver

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Book review: OPEN SOURCE by Anna Davis

ScienceThrillers.com book review of Open Source by Anna Davis.

BlueStar3

(very good; top 50% of SciThri)

Tech rating (out of 5):

Biohazard3

Publication date: January 12, 2016
Category: speculative fiction (SF) thriller

Summary (from the book):

A source found dead—his skull sawed open by NeuroChip vandals in a Dallas back alley. The sole witness? Reporter Ryker Morris, whose stubborn resistance to a different kind of chip—the globally mandated IDChip—cost him his job, apartment, and credibility. Ryker flees the gruesome scene, a young, homeless technophobe disappearing into a fast-paced city of augmented working stiffs and sexy chipped socialites.

But Ryker’s reprieve doesn’t last long. Under orders from a local hacker and tipped off by an invisible tracking device, the vandals kidnap Ryker’s best friend, leaving only a blood-soaked wallet behind. Even worse, they inject Ryker’s brain with a refurbished NeuroChip. Without money or resources, he must find his friend and deactivate the corrupt NeuroChip, before the twisted hacker who programmed it gains full control over Ryker’s own thoughts.

ScienceThrillers review:

Open Source by Anna L. Davis is set in a near-future Dallas where a tinfoil hat won’t be enough. This speculative fiction (SciFi) thriller opens with our protagonist, Ryker Morris, witnessing the surreptitious harvesting of a NeuroChip from inside the skull of a recently deceased man lying dead in an alley.

The questions, paranoia, and fear only grow from there.

In this dystopia, Morris, who was once an investigative journalist, has lost his job, his home, and his status in the world because he refuses to accept either of two techno implants that define modern life: an IDChip, which acts as a Social Security card, medical record folder, and drivers license all in one; and the NeuroChip, an optional brain implant that is linked to a data network and enhances virtually every aspect of mental functioning.

Unsurprisingly, that direct network linkage into people’s brains provides the opportunity for mischief.

Then one night, someone hits Morris’s homeless encampment, kidnapping his friend and implanting a NeuroChip inside Morris. This launches him on a quest to save his friend, to find out who is prowling the streets and stealing NeuroChips from the dead, and to stop his own NeuroChip from “flashing” with the network.

That’s just the beginning. The novel has several distinct sections as Morris’s problems and goals change. Delightfully, at some point he becomes an unreliable narrator. A lot of different plot elements are woven through the story: cyborgs, artificial intelligence, immortality, vampirism, addiction, mind control, telepathy, and of course social issues about privacy and what it means to be human.

While Open Source isn’t as tightly written as I would like, and the main character isn’t fleshed out in depth, the desire to understand what is really going on keeps the reader going. We live in a society on the brink of the kinds of technologies in this book, and as much as we all sense the dangers of something like NeuroChip, I can easily imagine individuals choosing to adopt such a thing in order to gain an advantage in life. And once the door is open, it could quickly go from optional to necessary, much as a college degree has become now.

This is a paranoid, mind-bending thriller for our time.

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New books on human microbiome reviewed in NYT

I have a special fascination with the human microbiome. I believe that understanding it will ultimately be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, medical achievement of the 21st century. But it will take the better part of this century to reach comprehension adequate for therapeutic use. In the meantime, it’s interesting to see the books being written about the intriguing bits we do know.

Below is a brilliant review from the Sunday New York Times of three new books on the human microbiome. The review is written by Sonia Shah, a science journalist and author whose books include “The Fever: How Malaria has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years” and “Pandemic: Tracking Contagions From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond,” to be published next month.


From the New York Times Book Review, Sunday, January 3, 2016

‘The Diet Myth,’ ‘The Good Gut’ and ‘The Hidden Half of Nature’
By SONIA SHAH

DEC. 28, 2015

Sometime before the age of 5 or so my son misheard the term “taste buds” and imagined, instead, that his mouth was alive with “taste bugs.” This came in handy for him when under fire for rejecting the variety of new foods we put on the table. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t like broccoli and spinach, he’d explain, it was his pesky taste bugs.

Back then, we considered this mostly exasperating. Now, it turns out, the kid may have been right. Using the improved detection capacity of genetic sequencing techniques, scientists have discovered that 100 trillion microscopic creatures live in and on the body, influencing everything from the intensity of our immune responses and our moods to our dietary preferences and propensity to gain weight.

The most prolifically microbe-rich organ is the large intestine, which in the average American is home to a dynamic ecosystem of 1,200 different bacterial species. These creatures (collectively known as the microbiome) produce a slew of compounds, from toxins that cause inflammation and are associated with heightened heart-­disease risk to critical vitamins, the mood-­regulating hormone serotonin and compounds that suppress hunger and reduce glucose and insulin levels in the blood.

Popular and scientific interest in how the microbiome might be manipulated through diet, supplements and transplants to improve health and treat disease has exploded in recent years. It’s now the subject of a spate of new books. In “The Diet Myth: Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss Is Already in Your Gut,” the genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector describes how gut microbes interact with genes and diet. The book is structured as a takedown of diet myths, but it’s much more than a self-help advice book. It’s witty, well-written and broad-ranging, littered with fascinating factoids and case studies. Spector thoughtfully explains the strengths and weaknesses of the available evidence, drawing on research on gut microbes as well as his long-­running studies on the genetics of twins and his own often hilarious experiments with various diets.

In Spector’s telling, gut microbes are neither good nor bad: The part they play in health and disease is dynamic and contextual. For other authors, the story is a little simpler. Gut microbes are the good guys, and they’re under assault. In “The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health,” the Stanford University gut microbiome researchers Justin Sonnenburg and ­Erica Sonnenburg describe how the Western lifestyle methodically diminishes the diversity of the gut microbiome. Easily digestible processed foods starve gut microbes of nutrients, highly sanitized environments deprive them of microbial visitors, antibiotics knock them down and Caesarian sections distort their populations. By doing so, they argue, these hallmarks of the Western lifestyle are “disastrous” and partaking of them tantamount to “a game of Russian roulette” with our health.

To wit, reduced microbial diversity in the gut is associated with — though not proven to be a cause of — an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome. If you knock down the gut microbes of children before the age of 2 with a broad-­spectrum antibiotic, for example, the risk that they’ll become obese jumps by 11 percent. Farmers have long known the same to be true in livestock, which is why 80 percent of the antibiotics consumed in this country are fed to animals to fatten them for market; Spector speculates that the environmental runoff from this practice may be an underlying cause of the childhood obesity epidemic. And babies born via C-­section whose gut microbes are seeded by the hands of nurses rather than the birth canals of their mothers have a 20 percent higher risk of food allergies and asthma.

For the Sonnenburgs, this means that a diverse gut microbiome is the key to good health. But at the same time, aspects of the modern Western lifestyle that have reduced microbial diversity in the gut have increased longevity, too. Processed foods have cheaply filled bellies, sanitary methods that separated human waste from food and drink have prevented epidemics of disease, and antibiotics have saved us from life-­threatening infections. This may be why, in part, the ­hunter-gatherer tribes whose highly diverse gut microbes the Sonnenburgs mention admiringly have a life expectancy at birth that is about half that of the typical, microbially depleted American. Had the Sonnenburgs incorporated these facts into their argument, a more nuanced view of microbes in human health might have emerged.

David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé, in their ambitious and prodigiously researched book, “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health,” take an even more romantic view of the microbial world, drawing connections between the assault on microbes in agriculture and the assault on microbes in the body. Montgomery is a geomorphologist and the author of several books on geology, and Biklé is an environmental planner. Oddly, they don’t use their outside expertise to enrich and extend their explorations of the microbiome. Instead, they strike the incredulous tone of outsiders, amazed, astounded and shocked (sometimes in the same paragraph) by the wonders of the microbial world. Their excitement about the microbiome is undoubtedly justified: Its discovery calls into question all manner of underlying assumptions about the nature of disease, our relationship to the natural world and even what it means to be human. But too often, their defense of the microbiome reads like a cross between a regurgitated college textbook and the promotional copy on the back of a bag of compost. It is this kind of boosterism that has allowed the rapidly growing probiotics industry to claim their microbe-rich capsules do everything from improving immunity to aiding weight loss, without proving that any of that is so.

The truth is that for now, proven effective new therapies based on manipulating the gut microbiome concern diseases specific to the gut itself, such as C. difficile infections. When researchers have tried to, say, alter gut microbes in order to treat obesity — for example by transplanting the gut microbes of lean people into obese ones — they’ve failed. It may be that studies to date have been too small to be conclusive. Or it may be that there’s a lot more involved in obesity and other conditions than the activities of gut microbes.

Still, whether the furor over the gut microbiome leads to revolutionary new therapies or fizzles, one thing is for sure. Since the dawn of germ theory in the late 19th century, Western medicine has characterized microbes primarily as malevolent invaders to be repelled with antiseptic techniques and destroyed by microbe-killing drugs. That made sense, given that the ones scientists could most easily detect — the microbes that grew in petri dishes in the lab — were also the ones responsible for dramatic diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera. Now, in light of the vast scale of the noninvasive, non-disease-causing microbes living within, that reflexive antimicrobial approach makes far less sense. It’s time for a reboot.

THE DIET MYTH
Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss Is Already in Your Gut
By Tim Spector
318 pp. The Overlook Press. $28.95.
THE GOOD GUT
Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health
By Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg
301 pp. Penguin Press. $27.95.
THE HIDDEN HALF OF NATURE
The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
By David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé
Illustrated. 309 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $26.95.

A version of this review appears in print on January 3, 2016, on page BR9 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Inside Job.

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SciThri new releases: December 2015

Here’s the ScienceThrillers.com monthly roundup of newly released, or new to me, indie science & medical thrillers.  These books are among the many I don’t have time to read and review, but genre fans might enjoy.

If you are an author or publicist and would like your book listed, contact me with title, author, release date, weblinks, and summary. Only books with scientific or medical themes or characters will be included. Ask me about hosting a giveaway raffle on your behalf (paper books only).

SciThri New (or new to me) Releases:

Special this month: Scroll down for book giveaways!

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Fatal Complications by John Benedict (2015). Medical thriller.

When a colleague’s patient suffers a bizarre reaction in the operating room, Luke Daulton, a newly minted anesthesiologist, volunteers to help. Despite the surgical team’s best efforts, the patient succumbs to a rare anesthetic complication. Luke becomes perplexed, even suspicious, over their inability to save the woman. Is it possible that the diagnosis was wrong? Or, worse yet, was the diagnosis faked? Luke even wonders if his boss Dr. Katz is involved.

Too busy with the rigors of new job and his pending fatherhood, Luke is forced to put his suspicions on hold. When his wife Kim faces a C-section, his fears are reignited. Could there be a murderer—or murderers—operating in his hospital? Could his wife’s obstetrician be involved? When the C-section goes horribly wrong, Luke must launch into action to save his wife and baby and expose a conspiracy he’s uncovered in his hospital.

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Do you enjoy thrillers with real science? Read Petroplague by Dr. Amy Rogers. Oil-eating bacteria contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city. “Compellingly written, technically literate” “top 5 on my best of 2011 list” “the science is utterly believable” “I couldn’t put this one down”

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The Invention of Science: new science history / intellectual history book

A new intellectual history of the “scientific revolution” of the 16th-18th centuries, The Invention of Science by David Wootton, goes on sale December 8. I have not read it but when I got this press release, I thought I should share it with you as this sounds like a superb book for the right reader. –Amy

Enter to win a copy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway INVENTION OF SCIENCE


From the publisher:

We live in a world transformed by science, but what would it be like to live in a pre-scientific world? A world in which everyone believed in witchcraft, and many in alchemy; a world in which it was generally accepted that a drum made of lamb skin would fall silent in the presence of a wolf’s skin, that a compass could not work in the vicinity of a clove of garlic, that boats floated higher in the water as they moved away from the shore, and the oceans were higher than the highest mountain tops — all ideas incomprehensible to us.

In Shakespeare’s time there was still no word meaning “fact” in our contemporary sense, and there were no laws of nature or scientific “theories”. Yet just a century later Newton had established his three Laws of Motion and his theory of gravity. Between Shakespeare and Voltaire (who wrote a book on Newton’s science) the perspective of the educated elite changed more rapidly than at any time in previous history, and perhaps more than at any time in history.

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton (on sale December 8, 2015; HarperCollins; 768 pages; ISBN# 9780061759529) brings readers along on a sweeping journey through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, as Wootton describes how the transformation took place, explains why it happened, and discusses the astonishing, long-lasting effects on all aspects of our everyday lives.

Most historians have rejected the concept of the “Scientific Revolution” as anachronistic, and have insisted that we should not distinguish good science from bad, advocating studying Newton’s alchemy and his physics with equal respect, but David Wootton, in a sustained attack on postmodern relativism, shows that the concept is indispensable if we are to understand how modern science originated. The Scientific Revolution was actually five discreet revolutions.

1) The shift in astronomy from Ptolemy to the explanations of Galileo and Newton.
2) The introduction of the experimental method in science.
3) The invention of “facts” – a shift from the Aristotelian culture of authority.
4) The change in disciplines – the separation of science from philosophy and theology.
5) The technological revolution – the advent of the printing press and the steam engine.

Each of these important revolutions developed independently, but came to intersect and develop a new world view that persists today. The Invention of Science is a groundbreaking examination of how, when, and why science came to shape our ways of thinking and our world, written by a rising star in the field of history.

“…perceptive, thought-provoking, deeply erudite and beautifully written.” —Nature

“The invention of science provides a thought-provoking perspective on a period that transformed chemistry.” —Chemistry World

“A landmark history captures the excitement of the scientific revolution.” Financial Times

David Wootton is the Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York. He is the author of Bad Medicine (Oxford, 2007) and Galileo (Yale, 2013) and reviews frequently for The London Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement. He delivered the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford in the spring of 2014.

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SciThri new releases: November 2015

Here’s the ScienceThrillers.com monthly roundup of newly released, or new to me, indie science & medical thrillers.  These books are among the many I don’t have time to read and review, but genre fans might enjoy.

If you are an author or publicist and would like your book listed, contact me with title, author, release date, weblinks, and summary. Only books with scientific or medical themes or characters will be included. Ask me about hosting a giveaway raffle on your behalf (paper books only).

SciThri New (or new to me) Releases:

Special this month: Scroll down for book giveaways!

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Havelock by Jane D. Everly (2015). Spy/action thriller with science.

Eliana Havelock is a female with no past, whose determination to bring down a Karachi arms dealer places her in the midst of a global threat.

Mason Treadik is a weapons developer and master strategist whose development of a nano technologically enhanced super drug that turns normal people into hardened killers, catches the eye of the British Secret Intelligence Agency.

MI-6 is currently fractured due to political upheaval with many of its covert programs dissolved or disbanded. When Eliana presents the opportunity to divert an international arms disaster, the head of MI-6 partners her with one of it’s best and brightest, the enigmatic, Connor Blackwell. Together they must hunt Treadik and his designer drug across the world before the maniacal genius corners the world-wide contract killing business and brings nations to their knees.

But in a world of secrets and hidden agendas, who can Eliana trust? And what, or who, is Eliana really after?

Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves by Jesse Baruffi (2015). Indie humorous scifi thriller.

Otto Von Trapezoid is a mad scientist who rules an army of robots from his orbital space station. Angry and grumpy, he sees no value in humanity except becoming their ruler. Esmerelda Santa Monica is the stylish self-proclaimed “Empress of Thieves,” who values her own legend and the thrill of the theft over actual wealth. Both live lonely lives, the desire to become the greatest villains of all time primarily on their minds

When the two meet in simultaneous attempts to blackmail the UN, their instincts are to attempt to kill one another, but soon they discover a mutual attraction that neither thought possible. Once they begin to pool their resources, the pair seems on track to become the most successful evil-doers of all time and set out to conquer the world itself. But what happens when their villainous natures emerge, and both realize there can only be one absolute ruler of Earth? Can either be satisfied with being second to another?

To make matters worse, they must deal with the protestations of Otto’s sidekick robot SCRAP, the meddling of their fellow villains, their families, and worst of all, heroic superspy Jake Indestructible is determined to bring them both down, once and for all.

Filled with robot dinosaurs, exploding dinner parties, and villainous poker games, OTTO VON TRAPEZOID AND THE EMPRESS OF THIEVES is a hilarious sci-fi comedy that will leave you falling in love with the bad guys!

Farside by Patrick Chiles (2015). Hard sci fi action thriller in space.

A missing spacecraft –
A cryptic message –
And a fearsome secret hiding in plain sight.
Five years after he was marooned in Earth orbit, Ryan Hunter must go even farther to find the man who saved his life.
With former astronaut Penny Stratton, he leads an unconventional rescue team into a threat beyond anything he could have imagined. What he can’t know is that the fate of millions rests on their shoulders.
Because something big is coming…

a Rafflecopter giveaway FARSIDE
The Case of the Defunct Adjunct: A Molly Barda Mystery by Frankie Bow (2015). Cozy mystery set in public university. Author says, “a lighthearted murder mystery that affectionately portrays small-town life and big academic egos in rural Hawaii.”

When the lecherous Kent Lovely, Mahina State’s one-man hostile work environment, collapses face-first into his haupia cheesecake, the faculty retreat goes from dull to disastrous. Now Professor Molly Barda has to fight to keep an innocent out of prison—and herself off the unemployment line.

a Rafflecopter giveaway DEFUNCT ADJUNCT
Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 (The Uncommon Series) by Eliot Peper (2015). Technothriller trilogy about a cybersecurity startup.

The Uncommon Series is a trilogy of tech startup thrillers that follows a pair of friends who drop out of college to start a software company in Boulder, CO. But their startup doesn’t just build widgets, it uncovers financial fraud. Along the way from garage to IPO, they get sucked into an international conspiracy whose influence extends from Wall Street to the White House. They juggle mysterious investors, opaque partners, critical customers, and a team that is as brilliant as it is dysfunctional until only one question remains: win or die.

Bio Adversity: A Taylor Foss CDC Investigation by Dale Kutzera (2015). Indie technothriller.

“It’s X-Files with a medical twist.”

Fans of Michael Crichton and William Gibson will love this techno-thriller.
Taylor Foss, an investigator with the CDC’s Special Pathogens Division, is sent to a small northern town to investigate a bizarre case of birth defects. There she uncovers a plot to change human genetics forever. This break-neck page-turner is packed with action, plot-twists, and compelling ideas based on medical science in use right now.

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Do you enjoy thrillers with real science? Read Petroplague by Dr. Amy Rogers. Oil-eating bacteria contaminate the fuel supply of Los Angeles and paralyze the city. “Compellingly written, technically literate” “top 5 on my best of 2011 list” “the science is utterly believable” “I couldn’t put this one down”

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Guest post: THE SIDE EFFECT by John DeBoer

ScienceThrillers welcomes John DeBoer, author of The Side Effect, a medical thriller based on pharmacology and genetics.


Rain forest provides miracle drug with a dark side

Guest post by John DeBoer

SideEffectCOVERThe disappearance of the world’s rain forests, especially in South America’s Amazon basin, is a worrisome matter, not just because of the resulting injury to the biosphere, but also because of the potential loss of pharmaceutical benefits that could reside in the flora being destroyed by “civilization.” My novel The Side Effect starts out with that premise – a plant exists with wondrous properties only known by its aboriginal consumers until it’s discovered by an anthropologist doing research among these people. What he discovers will, decades later, be developed into a miracle drug that would seemingly benefit everyone on the planet.

Therein lies the first conflict of the story: the race between two pharmaceutical companies to be the first to patent the drug. One of these companies is a Swiss firm, whose origins date back to Nazi Germany; the other is a U.S. company currently marketing generic drugs but wanting to develop its own pharmaceuticals. Each firm comes by its knowledge of the potential breakthrough drug by different means.

The Swiss firm wins the race, and now the second, and more deadly, conflict begins. The drug appears to benefit everyone and its market penetration heads toward 100%! (I won’t give away what that benefit is, so I can’t discuss the rationale as to how it works, but it’s discussed in the book.) But soon there are incidents that suggest an exception for Ashkenazi Jews, who have a long and documented history of suffering from terrible diseases peculiar to them due to DNA mutations. Why this wasn’t discovered in the human trials before approval of the drug is addressed in the book.

In my story, I suggest (and I use factual references to back this up) that this exception to the miraculous benefits of the drug would apply to all branches of Judaism. And not only that, the drug acts as a catalyst to cause what would otherwise be a Mendelian risk of producing offspring with such a disease. In other words, whether the parent is a carrier or not, the drug produces the mutation in the embryo. If this side effect goes undiscovered for long enough, there would be a potential for a drug-induced Holocaust on a planetary scale.

The Swiss scientist, an anti-Semite, whose grandfather was instrumental in Nazi medical experiments, and whose father had been active in terrorist attacks conducted against Jews, including the one at the Munich Olympics, learns the side effect is real – and will do anything to keep it a secret.

The American physician involved in the research of the drug for the U.S. drug company must contend with the forces sent against him as he tries to warn of the dangers of the drug – before isolated incidents of tragedy can become full-blown genocide.


About the Author:

John's author photoAfter graduating from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, John L. DeBoer, M.D., F.A.C.S. completed a surgical residency in the U.S. Army and then spent three years in the Medical Corps as a general surgeon. Thirty years of private practice later, he retired to begin a new career as a writer.

When not creating new plot lines for his novels, Dr. DeBoer pursues his interests in cooking, films and film history, politics, and the amazing cosmos. Though he’s an avid tennis player, his yet-to-be-fulfilled goal is to achieve a level of mediocrity in the frustrating game of golf.

The father of two grown sons, he lives with his wife in North Carolina.

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Guest post: Roger & Suzanne Mystery Series by Jerold Last

ScienceThrillers welcomes Jerold Last, author of a series of mysteries starring a husband/wife team of a private investigator and a biochemist. What’s not to love about that?


Do You Like Your Murders Mixed With Science?

Guest post by Jerold Last

The Roger and Suzanne mystery series features private eye Roger Bowman and his wife, biochemistry professor Suzanne Foster, solving murders in strange and exotic locales. Suzanne uses her scientific expertise to good advantage in several of these stories. The science is authentic; the author is a professor at the University of California in Davis with much the same background as Suzanne.

If you like science in your mysteries, you will enjoy Science Can Be Murder, which combines three books from the series into one inexpensive omnibus volume. The unifying theme of these three stories is Suzanne’s scientific skills and knowledge, which are important elements of their plots. In The Ambivalent Corpse, the first book in the series, Suzanne brings Roger to South America to collect plants and botanicals for her research on new drugs to treat cancer. Along the way they visit Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. For the social scientists here, a real-life Paraguayan indigenous creation legend is an important clue in solving this murder mystery.

In The Origin of Murder, as Roger and Suzanne retrace the path that Charles Darwin sailed and walked more than 175 years ago, the body count increases almost as fast as the clues. This whodunit novel set on a cruise ship traveling around Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands gives Suzanne an opportunity to start developing her son Robert’s interests in science on the right track.

Suzanne’s interest in anti-cancer drugs and Vincent Romero’s early career as a professor of chemistry in Chile play prominent roles in the novella “The Body in the Parking Structure” set in exotic Los Angeles, California. Those readers interested in the biological nuances of breeding camelids in captivity will enjoy the newest novella in the series, “The Body in the Alpaca Pasture”, set in Salta and Molinos in Argentina’s remote northwestern province of Salta.

The rest of the books in the series feature the same characters, but Suzanne’s contributions tend to emphasize her scientific logic rather than the science itself. But a little bit of science seems to creep into all of the books. Brief reviews of the books on the pages where you obtained the stories are always most welcome.

 

 

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