January 2, 2016

Super Roosters

In my first review of 2016, I continue with Dr. Robert Greer’s tenth novel, Heat Shock. Black Amerasian Doctor Carmen Nguyen is the heroine of Heat Shock, Doctor Robert Greer’s third medical thriller. The novel was published in 2003 two years before Resurrecting Langston Blue (2005) in which Dr. Nguyen finds her African American father. I read Shock after Langston because it is not a part of the CJ Floyd series. Greer’s other two medical thrillers are The Devil’s Hat Band (first novel in Floyd series) and Limited Time (which isn’t part of the series though Floyd plays a part in the plot). 

Dr. Nguyen, a research oncologist, was forced to leave her job at Utah University after blowing the whistle on top level administrators who were skimming money from grants. She now works in the ER in St. Mary’s Hospital in Denver where she meets the two men who will involve her in the dangerous culture of cockfighting.
She treats Luke Redstone, a Navajo and Korean War veteran, for cancer he contracted working in the uranium mines. She also treats Walker Rios, an ex-marine intelligent officer during the Persian Gulf War and now river guide, for head and shoulder injuries he suffered in a fall into the river. After they are moved from the emergency room, both men insist that Carmen continue to treat them.

Redstone knows he is dying and asks Carmen to check on his roosters. She ventures into the mountains where he has hidden his roosters to keep other owners from stealing them. As she approaches the place, someone takes a shot at her. She later learns that Redstone’s roosters are famous on the cockfighting circuit for never having lost a fight. They are considered to be “super chickens.” 

Someone doesn’t want anyone around Redstone’s roosters, and Carmen, Rios and Redstone want to know who and why. The next time Carmen ventures into Redstone’s hiding place, Rios accompanies her. What they find puzzles them: some of the roosters are missing and the remaining ones are dead.

The answer lies with the rich and powerful Jack Kimbrough, a physicist and financier who made his money through some questionable financial deals. He is researching the heat shock protein (HSP90) because it helps species withstand physical stress. He uses Navajos, whose fathers worked in the uranium mines and passed the protein onto their sons, to determine if the HSP90 in their blood will protect them against fire. The Navajos believe they are practicing to become firefighters. If the experiment works, Kimbrough envisions a future in which he produces super soldiers and “in six months...bring world powers...knocking on his door.” He believes Redstone’s super roosters hold the key to unlock the super protein.

In addition to finding out why Kimbrough wants Redstone’s super Roosters, Carmen and Rios also must deal with Kimbrough’s dangerous enforcer Roland Septian who tries to stop them.  

Although Heat Shock is a medical thriller, it has its share of dead bodies, four to be exact. In case you’re wondering, yes, the heat shock protein is real. The heat shock protein is a trouble-shooting gene that causes humans and animals to develop physical changes which help withstand stress. Rios defines the heat shock protein in layman’s terms as “A building block capable of making humans invincible” 

Dr. Greer uses his knowledge of the biological sciences to weave an exciting tale of human gene manipulation for control and power. I enjoyed Heat Shock more than I did Time Limit. Unlike the plot Time Limit, the Heat Shock plot is tighter and well controlled with no wasted scenes.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.