Review: BEYOND GUILTY by Richard Brawer

Beyond Guilty

Richard Brawer

Published by L & L Dreamspell

Trade Paperback: 302  pp.

ISBN 978-1-60318-196-9


Reviewed by Von Pittman

As crime novel villains go, “big pharma” is especially timely.  It is an entity that many readers will welcome a chance to hate.  Beyond Guilty almost certainly will not be the last thriller to outline elaborate and nefarious plots to revolutionize medicine and turn obscene profits.   Sloan Wexler, the CEO of Merlin-Akre Pharmaceuticals Company, takes his company up to the edge of a medicinal revolution, “a new way of doing chemistry that molecule-sized rotors, robot arms, shafts, pumps, tanks, syringes, differential gears, bearings and computers would be assembled into a bacterium-sized robot that eventually would be injected into the bloodstream to repair damaged cells or digest harmful pathogens.”   Wexler has decided to create an absolute, permanent cure for HIV-AIDS.

Wexler is in a hurry and can find no substitute for human experimentation.  He cannot wait for the outcome of legitimate medical and pharmaceutical research trials that would be necessary to perfect a nanomedical cure for AIDS.  Willing to go to any extremes, he builds a compound on an otherwise uninhabited Bahamian island to serve as a lab.  He hires mercenary former military personnel to guard it.  Under the command of the highly intelligent and resourceful Colonel Springer, they keep the curious out and the research subjects in.   It is, of course, not easy to find humans willing to be infected with HIV, then to die within weeks, even in the name of science.  Thus Wexler has found a clever and prolific source of subjects, the Texas penal system’s death row.

In Texas, convicted murderers taken to the death house at Huntsville for lethal injections.  The fortunate few of them selected to be Wexler’s subjects wake to find themselves in a pleasant cottage, on a beautiful beach, with wonderful food that they haven’t tasted in decades.  As they begin to process this incredible change in fortune, they note that except for a fenced-in area of water for swimming, the island is surrounded by sharks.  And they have no privacy; the guards maintain close electronic surveillance.  Most subjects easily resign themselves to a few more pleasurable weeks of life.  However, two new arrivals quickly disrupt the system.

Eileen Robinson is a guilt-wracked common-law wife of a recently deceased drug dealer.  She is framed and sent to death row for the murder of a politically connected burglar who had tried to steal her old man’s stash.  In the Bahamian research compound, she allies herself—romantically and practically—with  Mark Chetney, a homicidal serial psychopath, but one who only kills parents who have abused their children.  Eileen and Mark make common cause to get off the island, settle scores with their captors, ruin big pharma tycoon Sloan Wexler, and restore Eileen’s reputation, for the sake of her children.

The set-up is long, and occasionally slow, as Eileen’s back story and the means by which Texas’s executioner—Dr. Metcalfe—spare, then snatch, death row prisoners are explained.  However, once Eileen and Mark initiate their escape plan, and and Colonel Springer begins his pursuit, the action becomes fast-paced and non-stop.

The author’s inclusion of the concept of nanomedicine in the plot is articulate and intriguing.  Some of his characters, especially Wexler, Colonel Springer, and Dr. Metcalfe, Huntsville’s executioner, are nicely done.   The book could have profited from better editing.  For example, a book featuring pharmaceutical research in a fictional company should not misspell the names of two actual drug companies (Pfizer and Merck).

Readers who like the thrillers and mysteries with a medical theme should find Beyond Guilty interesting and entertaining, as well as faster-paced than most books in this sub-genre.

Copyright @ 2009 Von Pittman


I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep in consideratioin in preparing to write this content.  I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Comments are closed.