Review

Life Sentences

by Alice Blanchard



LIFE SENTENCES is Alice Blanchard's second novel, following the
success of 2003's THE BREATHTAKER. Daisy Hubbard's younger brother
Louis is robbed of life by a vicious rare disease --- a genetic
death sentence called Stier-Zellar's --- and Daisy grows up to
become a scientist bent on finding a cure. She's passionate about
her work with mice in the lab, finding little time for a social
life. Nearing a breakthrough in therapeutic treatment for those
infected, Daisy is elated with the success of her research. Dr.
Truett, her boss in the Boston lab, sees her as his shining hope
for the future.

Her secure world turns chaotic, however, when she receives a phone
call from her mother Lily in upstate Vermont. Anna, Daisy's younger
sister, has moved to Los Angeles and disappeared. Lily pleads with
Daisy to fly to the west coast and find her. Anna is schizophrenic
and is presumed to have gone off her meds. It's a pattern repeated
often but not with the usual ends. Anna has always managed to
surface, calling Lily to ease her mother's anxiety. But not this
time. So Daisy leaves Boston for the place Anna now calls home,
worried but not frantic.

Blanchard writes her characters with a gifted pen. Descriptions are
explicit, from freckles, red hair and greasy fibers to genetic
predispositions, mannerisms and crime scene panoramas. Her artful
use of simile makes for realistic pictures when Daisy and Detective
Jack Makowski of the LAPD search the clueless labyrinth that Anna
has left. From his "trollish dad" to "walls painted nicotine
yellow," Blanchard imprints indelible word paintings in the
reader's mind. Rooftops that are "a checkerboard of pastels
shimmering in the sweltering heat" are further descriptive
techniques she pens with ease.

A number of additional missing persons further complicates the web
of intrigue Daisy and Jack encounter when looking for Anna. A
common thread weaves into the scheme. Anna, it seems, has copied
Daisy's research article about Stier-Zellar's, become acquainted
with carriers of the genetic marker Daisy researched, and
befriended Roy Gaines, a fellow of dubious background. The trail
turns cold but heats up when one of the men in the genetic carrier
group is murdered, then soon another. Both have been strangled and
buried in a forested area outside the Los Angeles vicinity. Daisy
becomes entangled with the probable killer, Gaines, when she fears
that he's murdered Anna. Jack plays the role of protector.

Daisy's childhood baggage travels with her. She and Anna carry
distorted memories of mistreatment by Lily's live-in lover. Their
brother's father is an unknown quantity, not sharing their same
parentage. But Mr. Barsum, the live-in, is not his father, and Lily
has refused to divulge the name of Louis's parent. Daisy rebuts her
troubled childhood by overachieving and Anna turns to psychotic
fantasy.

LIFE SENTENCES is entertaining and keeps the reader's attention
through one twist or turn after another. Louis's tragic death, with
Daisy's subsequent research, is the motivating force behind the
story's action. Alice Blanchard becomes a unique addition to a new
group of medical thriller writers.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 11, 2011

Life Sentences
by Alice Blanchard

  • Publication Date: August 24, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446576727
  • ISBN-13: 9780446576727