Written by Michael Myette
Published by Pemberton Mysteries
Review by Jilly Gee
With funding for his experiments having been pulled and the closing of his lab coming up, Matthew Quinn worked non-stop for days to find out why his polymer kept the mice alive. Even if more funding had been forthcoming, he still would have worked those sleepless nights and days; Quinn was a workaholic, driving his girlfriend further and further away. When he finally figures out why the polymer works and how to do it without the nasty side effects, Tasha tells him she’s had enough and dumps him right before he is kidnapped on the orders of Vladimir Michinski, a businessman who hides his illegal dealings behind legimate businesses, wants to patent the forumula as his own. Defying the weak scientist stereotype, Quinn escapes from Michinski’s men and keeps his formula, but loses his freedom, having to hide from both Michinski and the police when Michinski frames him for a murder.
On the run from both criminals and the police, there are a lot of close calls that keep things exciting. Not knowing which characters to trust, which ones were really under Michinki’s control, added to the thrill. That feeling of, "Will they finally catch him this time?" would get old if it happened too often, but it never gets to that point. Of course, I’m not about to count and tell how many times the doctor almost gets caught and by which side as that would ruin the suspense, but there are different close calls aside from being captured or imprisoned, so keep that in mind.
Perhaps in keeping with Quinn’s medical profession, and definitely owing to the fact that the author himself is a doctor, the writing was very scientific, detailing exactly which body parts went where during fights, what parts bled and how to cause deaths and near-deaths. While this kind of detail helped me to see the action clearly, what I couldn’t take away from the the novel was any of the characters’ feelings. Oh, there were some emotions and thoughts mentioned here and there, but in the blunt, simple way that’s meant only to help that moment in the story, not in the way that gets readers to really feel for the character. If a person is shot, pain is mentioned a bit, maybe a frown from another character, but that doesn’t exactly convey the intense worry they should be feeling, either for themselves or for each other.
Despite the lack of human drama, (or the less emotionally inclined might say because of it) Free Radical was a page turner, Quinn getting himself into heart pounding situations. Yes, the situations warranted the faster heartbeat even if the characters and their relationships did not. This was a story driven completely by its plot and not its characters.