Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Death of a Cure by Steven H. Jackson

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Death of a Cure by Steven H. Jackson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death of a Cure by Steven H. Jackson

A Thomas Briggs Mystery

Telemachus Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9841083-0-0 (0984108300)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9841083-0-5 (9780984108305)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $13.95

Review: Marine surgeon Thomas Briggs returns home to investigate the circumstances surrounding his brother's death in Death of a Cure, the first book in this series by Steven H. Jackson.

Dr. Ronald Briggs' death is officially listed as a suicide. Thomas Briggs realizes he can't be completely objective here, but he doesn't believe his brother ended his life, or even that it was an accident. The investigating detective also seems to have his doubts. "I can't officially let you look at or have this list [of your brother's known associates]," he says to Briggs. "But then again, the copy you are holding might not make it back into this folder -- we don't log copies." Ronald Briggs had been a lead researcher for a medical foundation dedicated to finding a cure for CID, and though great progress had been made, a cure seemed elusive. His death would appear to be a setback for the foundation and the medical community. Thomas Briggs quickly learns, however, that a charitable research foundation is not just a not-for-profit organization, but big -- really big -- business. And not unlike its for-profit brethren, it must sometimes employ ruthless means to achieve its objectives.

Death of a Cure is less of a plot-driven novel than a character-driven one. But what a terrific character it is. In a book world full of cookie-cutter characters, most of which are so generic as to be interchangeable with those in the adjacent book on the shelf with little loss of continuity, Thomas Briggs is refreshingly different. He doesn't err on the side of being politically correct, but he's not insensitive either. He's often cynical but always realistic. He's not ill-tempered but doesn't "suffer fools gladly". He's a strong ally, fierce adversary, and good friend.

But the plot isn't as solid as its principal character. The book itself is far too long, and could have been tightened considerably (which would also have the added benefit of upping the suspense level), but the rapid pacing makes this minor criticism somewhat debatable. What is disappointing is that Briggs doesn't exactly solve the case, but essentially has the solution handed to him in a "let me tell you everything before I kill you"-type confrontation. He's more clever than that, and deserves a better resolution. Still, the development of a strong, appealing character in a first book bodes well for later installments in the series.

Special thanks to Telemachus Press for providing a copy of Death of a Cure for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): They are the keepers of our hope. They are better, we need them to be. They battle daily in the fight to find a cure for our loved ones. But is the dream of a cure really their mission? Have they come to see the disease, our enemy, as their benefactor? How far would they go to protect the enemy? Would they kill?

Death of a Cure is a novel of mystery, suspense and action. The murder of one good man by a respected colleague is more than a crushing personal deception, it is an unequaled violation of the trust of millions afflicted by a horrible disease. The brother of the murdered man, a military surgeon born to wealth and accustomed to success, is thrust into the role of homicide investigator. Discovering that his skills as a detective are insufficient, he calls upon a woman from his past for help. Together they unravel layers of evil and deception revealing that the work of this healthcare charity has little to do with curing the terrible disease born by a trusting constituency.

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