Published in 2000 between The Devil’s Backbone (1998) and Resurrecting Langston Blue (2005), Robert Greer's novel, LIMITED TIME, isn’t a volume in the CJ Floyd series. CJ Floyd plays an important part in the plot, but his long time friend from their days in Vietnam, Dr. Henry Bales, raises the tension. CJ has Henry’s back in this exciting scientific research thriller.
The body of microbiologist Neil Cardashian is found in the city waste dump in a lab freezer belonging to microbiologist Dr. Theresa Gilliam. Cardashian was supposedly trying to develop an anti-aging pill based on the telomerase enzyme. Dr. Gilliam, the co-investigator, noting he was not following protocol, was trying to determine what he was up to. Homicide detective Lieutenant Clifford Menton considers her the prime suspect because, he thinks, she will benefit if the project is successful.
During Menton’s intensive questioning, Henry, head of pathology and chief of diagnostic molecular biology at the University of Colorado, gets in his face and is in danger of being arrested himself. Dr. Gilliam was his mentor when he was studying medicine and is his close friend. Lucky for him attorney Julie Madrid, CJ’s ex-secretary, is present. She calls CJ to come calm Henry down. Once he has calmed Henry down and persuaded him to leave, CJ turns his attention to Dr. Gilliam, who hires him to find Cardashian’s killer.
Dr. Gilliam is eliminated as a suspect when she is found dead sitting in her wheelchair in her lab. Henry vows to find her killer, but CJ persuades him to look for a motive that might have something to do with Cardashian’s research and leave the dangerous killer hunting to him.
In Cardashian’s office, CJ finds a box of Cuban cigars. Beneath the cigars are pearl-sized gel beads. Henry’s analysis reveals the gel beads are a telomerase concoction. CJ suggests maybe Cardashian was doing something other than trying to develop a longevity pill.
From the coroner’s attendant, a friend of CJ’s, Henry and CJ learn the autopsies of the brains of Leah Tanner, an olympic swimmer on the University of Colorado swim team, and Cardashian revealed pea-sized nodules. Henry concludes that both died from brain cancer due to overdoses of the telomerase gel beads.
Their joint investigation soon leads them to four possible suspects involved with the university swim team: Leah’s boyfriend Anthony Montella, Leah’s father Nathan Tanner, the swim team doctor, David Patterson, and the coach Ellis Drake. CJ eliminates all in the death of Theresa because none had a reasonable motive. Henry refuses to accept that Anthony Rontella couldn’t be the killer because he had the most to lose since he was peddling the telomerase drug to coaches. Henry goes to his ranch in La Plata County with his lady friend Dr. Sandra Artorio to do more work on the telomerase puzzle.
What Henry and CJ don’t know is a mysterious voice on the phone using the name Sweets is the master mind behind whatever Cardashian was doing. Sweets orders Jamie Lee Custus, a hit woman working for her, to eliminate Henry and Dr. Arotrio who are close to solving the telomerase puzzle. She follows them to Henry’s ranch and attacks them. CJ and a neighboring rancher arrive just in time to rescue Henry and Sandra. Right behind them is Sheriff Booker Reardon. He takes over the situation and learns from Custus that she was to meet Sweets at the airport in Durango, Colorado. The sheriff agrees to let Henry and CJ watch the proceedings at the airport but warns them not to interfere. Henry is the most important person in the group when they arrive at the airport because he is the only one who can identify Sweets.
As I struggled to write this review, my critical antenna began to zero in on what bothered me about the novel. The structure is not tight as it should be. Although I didn’t mentioned them in the summary, scenes set in Cuba designed to set up the cigar box clue and identify relationships among some of the Cuban characters could have been left out without disturbing the flow of the plot.