In Skeptic, Ben Mezrich, writing as Holden Scott, offers one of the most original plot lines I have ever read. If Michael Crichton founded the medical thriller genre, then his heir apparent is here in the persona of Mezrich-Scott.
Dr. Mike Ballantine and Massachusetts Governor Andrew Kyle had been best friends since early childhood. When Mike lost his wife in an airplane accident, Governor Kyle had taken steps to ensure that Mike’s prestigious position as Associate Director of Internal Medicine protected during a lengthy grieving period.
Now, Mike is riding in a celebratory parade for Governor Kyle when, suddenly, the Governor is vaporized in an explosion. Mike is thrown clear and ends up on the pavement close to the site of the explosion.
Terri, who had been an assistant in Mike’s research laboratory for three years, makes an incredible discovery. Using mirror viruses, she is able to replicate the thought patterns of a dying mouse and implant them in another mouse. This enables the donee to perform learned tasks that it had never been exposed to, e.g. completing the most difficult maze.
Meanwhile the FBI assigns a highly placed Chinese agent to supervise the gubernatorial assassination investigation. The gorgeous Amber Chen, armed with as many as many inventions and gadgets as James Bond, is on the trail of one of China's missing experimental oxygen compression mines. Realizing that she is witnessing the result of its use, she cannot understand why the thieves would have expended one of the extremely rare experimental bombs to kill the Governor of Massachusetts.
Amber’s challenge is to find a link that will tie Teri, Mike, the deceased governor, and a feared Chinese assassin to secret underground biomedical lab in China. To do this, she must weave her way through plots and subplots and grasp the connection.
How logical would you think a book could be when its main thesis is that a ghost is a transmittable virus? Here, the author makes this premise so logical that you begin to doubt yourself.
Skeptic relies on great leaps of faith and coincidental connections. And because of its use of complicated medical theories and the amount of action, not enough time is spent fleshing out the characters. The writing style can, at times, be ponderous, as in the scene description, and didactic when medicine is an issue.
Nonetheless, Skeptic is a memorable paranormal thriller with the intriguing concept that there is a molecular biological basis for ghosts, or souls, or…whatever.