"Heat Shock"

(reviewed by Chuck Barksdale JAN 25, 2004)

Luke Redstone, a 69-year-old cock fighter, has had a very successful career raising fighting birds; then a rare form of leukemia that he apparently picked up working in and around yellow-cake uranium ore, eventually catches up to him. He checks himself into St. Mary's hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado where he meets Carmen Nguyen a young, half-black, half-Vietnamese Emergency Room doctor. While Redstone receives treatment in the hospital, someone steals his prized fighting cocks. Redstone convinces Dr. Nguyen and Walker Rios, a hospital patient recovering from a fall, to help him. Since Rios is not only recovering physically, but mentally from his fall, helping Redstone is a good cure.

Read excerptMeanwhile, Jack Kimbrough, with a Ph.D. in physics and a former environmental engineer who turned a sideline disaster containment gear business into a fortune, shows significant interest in the success of Redstone's birds, which rarely lose a match. Kimbrough amasses a small team of mostly former military men to find Redstone's birds and to protect his research. Kimbrough believes that DNA changes in Redstone's birds were caused by a protective development trait brought on by exposure to the uranium. The DNA change is also related to the level of heat shock protein, HSP90. Kimbrough needs Redstone's birds to prove his theory and to then try his theory out on human subjects that would lead to super humans. Kimbrough explains his reasons and plans to Rebecca Ellerby, his laboratory assistant and lover.

"Then you get mutants. Deformed, invincible, and, sometimes, terribly profitable mutants," said Kimbrough, smiling and patting Rebecca on the bottom. "Fruit flies that grow into ten-winged monsters. Five-pound gamecocks with the leg-muscle mass of a thirty pound dog. And humans who over time develop traits that make them indestructible."

"And the ultimate moral to this cooking fable of yours is.?"

"Very simple: If you distract trouble-shooting genes like HSP90 with an effective quotient of outside stress, you may be able to dramatically alter the physical organism itself, thereby transforming skin into a protective coat of armor, or the liver into an organ that, when injured, never bleeds. In fact, I think I can manipulate the HSP90 protective development process enough to make it a valuable as Microsoft Windows or Teflon."

Carmen Nguyen and Walker Rios make a somewhat unlikely pair as they gather information about Kimbrough and his "army." Carmen's former experience as a medical researcher help her to quickly understand the full intent of Kimbrough's interest in the birds. However, Kimbrough's army plays rough and Carmen needs Walker's own military experience to protect her, as they get closer to Kimbrough.

Greer has created a very interesting and believable medical thriller. The characters, especially Luke Redstone, Walker Rios and Carmen Nguyen are interesting and realistic. This near future somewhat science fiction story is more reminiscent of a Michael Crichton novel then a Robin Cook novel. Of course the styles are different, but the interweaving of potential and believable, yet unproven, medical science makes for a similarly interesting read. Personally, I tired of Cook after a few books, but I still read everything Crichton writes.

Heat Shock is a standalone novel, but possibly a new series for Robert Greer, best known for his C.J. Floyd series. I certainly enjoyed this book and would read more if Greer decides to make more books with Carmen Nguyen and Walker Rios.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Heat Shock at MostlyFiction.com



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

C.J. Floyd Mystery Series

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About the Author:

author photoRobert Greer is a practicing surgical pathologist, research scientist, and Professor of Pathology and Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center . His short stories have appeared in numerous national literary magazines, and he is editor-in-chief of the High Plains Literary Review. He also raises Black Baldy cattle on his ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

He and his wife Phyllis live in Denver, Colorado.

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