After nearly two years on maternity leave, Laurie Montgomery is ready to return to her job as a New York City medical examiner. Now that her son’s neuroblastoma is in complete remission, she feels it is safe for her to go back to work. She finds a young woman who agrees to be JJ’s nanny, and off to work she goes. But her first day back is a major letdown. She gets a case that appears to be an ordinary death by natural causes. Nevertheless, she doggedly pursues the tiny things that don’t add up and finds that indeed the man was murdered.
The dead man happens to be Satoshi Machita, a Japanese researcher in the field of “human induced pluripotent stem cells,” a more complicated way of manufacturing the “seeming…equivalent of an embryonic stem cell.” Dr. Ben Corey has arranged for Satoshi and his entire family to enter the United States illegally from Japan. He hopes to get the jump on the competition in the field with Machita’s laboratory books that he steals from Kyoto University. Corey is the CEO of a startup company, iPS USA LLC, and hopes to make billions of dollars by getting the patent on the research and its outcome.
But in order to raise the dollars needed to get things going, Corey hooks up with “two of the most notorious and dangerous organized crime factions in the world”: the American Mafia and the Yakusa, the Japanese Mafia. Matters become more complicated and involved when word leaks out that two other branches of the Yakusa are also interested in getting their hands on the lab books and, hence, the patents.
Laurie runs into trouble when the Mafia learns that she has made up her mind to do an in-depth investigation into Satoshi’s death. She takes it upon herself to study the video footage from the train station where he was found, and sure enough she sees something very suspicious. At this point, the bad guys are so petrified that she will discover their secret that they kidnap her baby boy. In a fairly unbelievable episode, two men who work outside of law enforcement are brought in to get JJ back. They operate without rules and together make a stand against the kidnappers. Bodies pile up. People are threatened. And everyone’s plans go awry.
Robin Cook is not only an accomplished writer, he is also a respected medical doctor. He gave a speech in January 2006 on the topic of stem cells and stem cell research. In CURE, he has advanced his arguments to “human induced pluripotent stem cells” and is skeptical about the merging of medical research patents and big business. Die-hard fans of the author may be somewhat disappointed in this new novel, which starts slowly and moves along in a convoluted manner, reaching a swift but predictable ending. But if you enjoy medical thrillers and are looking for a fast read, CURE just might be the palliative you need.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 28, 2010