This book is so complicated, I don't even know where to start with a synopsis. David Marion is an ex-con who receives advance notice of a hit on his life. He escapes and learns that a mega-corporation, UCAI, was behind it. At the same time, Dr. Helen Freyl, who has a complicated past with David, learns that UCAI is trying to get their hands on a patent she holds on some honeybee venom and they'll stop at nothing to get their hands on it.
Let me say first of all that I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review.
This is a sequel to Bleedout, which I haven't read, but there was a pretty good explanation of what had happened previously, so I don't think I necessarily needed to read these in order.
Helen was my biggest problem. I could not bring myself to like her at all. She was a spoiled rich girl who treated the whole thing like a game until she realized that her own life might be at stake. I can't remember how many others had died at that point, but it was enough for me to think that this was an amazingly self-absorbed woman. She had to be at least firmly into her twenties to have her doctorate, but she tended to act more like a teenager. "Oh, let me smoke in this guy's car just to see if he'll say anything." "Oh, let me order the crazy-expensive caviar at this restaurant just to see if he'll say anything." She just liked to push her boundaries and see what she could get away with. She was a tiger while she was pushing away at someone, but the moment that someone pushed back, she was a thoughtless mess of need. I guess there's no turn-on like a guy with a spine, is there? I kept reading, thinking that she was just too stupid to live. She's picking a fight with someone over her hurt feelings as he's trying to save her life, clueless that he's even doing so. Self-absorbed and stupid. Not a winning combination for me.
The book took a long time to get going. There was too much background information. About half the book felt like set up, then by the time the action really got started, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Maybe that was on purpose, but it just felt like there should be more suspense in a thriller. Once I did reach that halfway point, I enjoyed things much more and would give the second half three stars. Unfortunately, that is where I got a little confused though. I was correct about part of what was going on, but it went a step further and I didn't quite follow. That could just be me.
I know this is an ARC and I should make allowances, and I am, but there were a few incorrect things that jumped out at me that I really hope get fixed by the final printing. First of all, the Smoky Mountains are in Tennessee, not West Virginia as one of the chapter headings states. There were more incorrect things in that chapter that I'm going to put down to David being a city boy. One other little thing that jumped out was the name SmithKleinGlaxo. That's all tangled up. It's GlaxoSmithKline. I would've missed that one if my uncle didn't work there. Things like that make me wonder about the research that went into the rest of the book.
A reader who isn't as dependent on likable characters as I am will probably enjoy this more than I did. There is a good story of industrial espionage and little guys vs. big corporations in here. It just didn't quite live up to the potential that I saw inside.
Read an excerpt on the publisher's website.
Venom will be published in the UK February 4, 2010, and in the US August 3, 2010.