by Lori Andrews
(very good; top 50% of SciThri)
Year published: 2006
Category: science thriller; romantic suspense; series (#1)
Tech rating (out of 5):
Dr. Alexandra Blake, Ph.D., molecular biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (a real institution, by the way), is asked to apply her forensic skills to solve cases in which a serial killer is murdering women near military bases and tattooing their bodies. Meanwhile, Alex must deal with a new, highly political boss and competing boyfriends (an itinerant musician and a Congressman, no less).
Sequence is a debut novel by a noted legal expert with a specialty in genetics. (Previous publications by Lori Andrews are all nonfiction dealing with social and legal aspects of biotechnology and reproductive technology.) This is a solid book for a first effort. If you prefer your thrillers to be non-stop, adrenaline-filled roller coasters, this may NOT be the one to put at the top of your list. But if you like your thrills mixed with more mystery, character development, relationships, politics, and romance, give Sequence a try.
Dr. Alex Blake is a master DNA sequencer who wants to pursue her research on biowarfare defense. But a new boss with an agenda to upstage the FBI forces her into forensics work instead. She becomes emotionally invested in stopping the serial killer, and since this is a thriller, of course at some point her life and the life of a friend are put in danger. Plot includes a very cool element using an old blood sample and some informative discussion of the ethics of genetic testing.
Alex is a strong protagonist with plenty of backstory (maybe too much): a crazy mother, a father killed in Vietnam, a cancer death that led her into science. The story includes the requisite sinister corporation, modeled on the real-life operations of scientific superstar Craig Venter. The serial killer plot which nominally drives the action and the final climax is in the emotional background for most of the book, behind the personal intrigues which dominate Alex’s daily life and the reader’s attention.
The science in Sequence is very good: accurate, highly relevant to the plot, presented without distraction / interruption, with the minor exception of a largely irrelevant “vaccine against bioterrorism” which is immunologic nonsense.
In short, a good mystery-thriller with strong female protagonist and a pleasing dose of molecular biology.
If you’re interested in laboratory politics, read: Intuition by Allegra Goodman
Lori Andrews’ Alexandra Blake series:
Sequence (2006); The Silent Assassin (2007); Immunity (2008)