No Time to Die, by Kira Peikoff. Pinnacle Books. 448 pp. Mass market paperback $8.99.
Posted September 29, 2014 at Washington Independent Review of Books.
A sharp biomedical thriller asks, what if old age and infirmity were not inevitable?
Now, with her frail grandfather’s support, she consults with Dr. Carlyle, “a legendary diagnostician in genetic disorders” and consultant to the Undiagnosed Diseases Program at the National Institutes of Health. He would seem to be her last chance. Zoe pays the $10,000 charge for the lab and imaging fees with her parents’ credit card — but without their permission. Dr. Carlyle makes the diagnosis that Zoe stopped aging at 14.
With this information, Zoe at least has a battle to fight, even though it means separating herself from her parents, who are quite unable to face the truth about their daughter’s condition or her much-needed independence.
When Les Mahler, head of the Justice Department’s Bioethics Committee, receives a copy of a mysterious Galileo postcard to mark the disappearance of the Columbia University researcher, Helen McNair, it is the 27th such postcard to come his way. Where are all these scientists, doctors, and patients? Where is the headquarters of the Network that has, in Mahler’s view, abducted them? How does Galileo keep a step ahead of Mahler’s investigation into the Network’s doings?
Here is Galileo’s mantra, as voiced to research professor Natalie Roy: “Our mission is to give experts like you the total freedom required to pursue biomedical advances as quickly and efficiently as possible. No board-required approvals, no drug companies or bureaucrats pushing agendas, no byzantine FDA regulations.”
Mahler is also a man with a mission, as well as a cruel streak. He wishes to bring stringent oversight to the regulation of human experimentation. He feels vulnerable people are being persuaded to take great risks for the sake of researchers’ egos and corrupt motives. However, his own ego is enormously dangerous (so dangerous that he lives at the top of a 30-story Georgetown high-rise, an impossibility given D.C.’s building height restriction ordinance).
The battle soon takes shape between Mahler’s FBI-supported committee and the Network, which readers learn is not made up of abductees but rather of volunteers. The search to understand the cause of Zoe’s abnormality begins at Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences, with Dr. Roy as the principal researcher. It’s her theory that is being tested, with the aim of duplicating Zoe’s condition in people who are fully mature, stopping the progression of aging at the peak time of physical capacity.
All along the way, Peikoff interlaces the action with a stream of scientific information and speculation presented with excited clarity. The characters love what they are doing and feed off each other’s dedication and intellectual daring. Mahler is dedicated to tracking them down and ending their underground lawlessness. Galileo, the Network’s leader, is pushed to the limit of his astounding abilities to help such programs succeed.
Within this compelling look at individuals and groups at work in the university- and government-based research community, Peikoff offers a frightening display of ambition, competition, and careerism gone wild. . . .
To read the entire review, click on: No Time to Die | Washington Independent Review of Books