The Cure by Douglas E. Richards is a medical sci-fi thriller exploring what would happen if a gene controlling the development of psychopaths could be cured (available September 17, 2013).
When Erin Palmer was twelve years old, on a night which began very much like every other night of her young life, she witnessed her family slaughtered by a man with no conscience. A bonafide psychopath. Because of her dark past – or perhaps in spite of it – she is now one of the most promising doctoral candidates in the country for her research into psychopathy. She works one-on-one with the most violent convicted felons, exploring their behavior and the way their brains function.
Erin’s ultimate goal, however, is not to just understand psychopathy, but to cure it. Backed by neuroscientist and pharmaceutical genius Hugh Raborn, she has managed to do just that: find a cure. But now, right when everything should be coming together, Erin finds herself suspended from her research. She discovers Raborn is not what he seems to be. And the cure she’s worked so hard to find is wanted for something very different than what it was designed for. Before she knows what’s happening, Erin is caught up in a global struggle, not just for her own life, but for all of humanity.
Douglas E. Richards’ The Cure has a distinctive and interesting storytelling pattern. He presents the everyday situation, then—a few pages or paragraphs later—lets loose a torrent of pain and struggle. The most interesting thing about this pattern is that it’s so recognizable and yet still so incredibly easy to get sucked in by the story.
For example, the story begins simply and sweetly enough: a family out for pizza after soccer practice. Immediately the reader knows there is no way this happy family can stay happy. It’s just how it goes, right? Here is a family that loves and supports one another. Dad watches soccer, even though he dislikes the sport, because Erin plays it:
“Ah-ha,” said Erin triumphantly. “I knew it wasn’t really your favorite sport.”
“Erin, any sport that you or Anna play is my favorite sport,” her dad replied earnestly, and her mom nodded in agreement. Looking into their adoring eyes, Eric knew they both absolutely meant it, which made her feel warm inside. They had a way of doing that. Her parents were funny and smart and kind, and they loved her and Anna with a passion that showed every instant of every day.
And somehow you just know something bad is coming.
Only an hour or so later that night, Erin loses her parents and her sister, Anna, to a psychopath who could not care less about what happens to any of them:
He turned to face Erin. “So here’s what I’m going to do,” he said calmly. “I’m going to see how much pain your sister can take. And then I’m going to kill her. While you watch. How does that sound?”
After losing her family, Erin manages to grow up broken but focused. She is closed off and has a hard time trusting people, which is no surprise considering the people she has surrounded herself with: the psychopathic convicts she studies. Like John:
Yes, he was the total package. He was handsome and charming and smooth as silk. He had also, three years earlier, beaten a young couple into a bloody paste with a tire iron. They had been out on a date and had paused during a stroll for an extended kiss, leaning against his car as they did so and inadvertently scratching it.
When it was over, John calmly carried the tire iron he had used to kill them to a nearby field, buried it, and returned to his apartment, where he had showered off to remove the significant amount of blood that had splattered on him, ordered a pepperoni pizza – since he had worked up quite an appetite – and settled in to watch a movie on cable.
Erin cures John.
When she approaches her benefactor, Raborn, with her breakthrough she discovers that there is more to the man than meets the eye. What follows is an international crisis. Erin must use all of her ingenuity, all of her guts, and all of her skills to protect herself and all she holds dear. Knowledge, guts, and certain self-defense abilities are definitely things Erin has in spades—after her family was killed she studied martial arts and utilizes every kick-butt maneuver in her arsenal. When a couple of goons try to kidnap her, she manages to hold her own nicely:
“I’m afraid I’ll have to keep your keys for now,” said the man, all traces of friendliness having left his voice. “You need to come with us. I don’t want to have to use force,” he said pointedly.
“Yeah. Me neither,” replied Erin, an intense, hard gleam in her eye.
There was something about the calm, confident, matter-of-fact way she said this that unsettled both men. They glanced at each other and then both began to reach for their guns at the same time.
They never made it.
Douglas E. Richards has meshed medical thrills, international intrigue, and sci-fi elements in The Cure, resulting in a fast-paced novel. Behind every twist is another twist. Erin Palmer is a sympathetic main character who makes some questionable decisions because of her past. She is broken and yet somehow grows, managing to rise to the occasion.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.