Title: Deadly Dissertation
Author: Rod Courser
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Sara Ricci is a talented, young Italian scientist studying in America. When she discovers secret research papers that belonged to her great-grandfather and begins to experiment, she becomes a target of not only legitimately interested parties, but also those less scrupulous…
In the short prologue set in Italy, 1944, the reader is briefly introduced to Gilberti Ricci and the circumstances of his death. It’s neatly written, intriguing, and atmospheric, giving the reader just enough information for a touch of foreshadowing, but not enough to spoil curiosity.
We then meet Sara, Gilberti’s great-granddaughter, in present day Boston where she is enrolled in the PhD program at MIT. Again, the reader is brought deftly up to speed with Sara’s life, and the science is simply yet comprehensively incorporated, making it accessible to the unscientific reader.
However, the promising beginning to Deadly Dissertation falters as the book progresses. Although it is refreshing to read a strong, female lead in the world of scientific research, Sara lacks some like-ability and comes across as one-dimensional. Her dialogue is slightly stilted and could use more individual passion.
Notwithstanding the strong tie with her parents back in Italy, there is also a dearth of warmth and emotion in her actions and instead too much superfluous, descriptive detail. Her character does evolve with more definition toward the end of the novel, but the burgeoning relationship with Jason could have been injected with more sexual tension to have balanced the air of cold detachment that she exudes.
Nonetheless, Dr. Adrian Zimbrean is well-depicted as her avuncular, trustworthy thesis chair at MIT. Also compelling is Richard “Rottweiler” Chase, the ex-military operative now running a high-level security concern. It would be good to see him as a staple character in future books.
Maximillian Drummond, the head of MDE Enterprises, whose exceptionally murky dealings drive the majority of the narrative is a prototypical billionaire villain, and his lair in Scotland suitably James Bondesque.
The plot is ambitious and gallops along. Although Gilberti’s 1940s research forms the nucleus of the story, all sorts of elements are thrown in the mix toward the conclusion, including terrorists, various special forces, and hacking, to name a few.
Given the amount of twists and reveals, there are a few occasions of confusion, but, in general, continuity is maintained and, in the framework of the novel, credulity is never over-stretched. In parts, the writing is similar to stage direction, which gives the prose a stylized, almost tongue-in-cheek attitude that, conversely, works well.
Overall, it’s good fun. The enthusiasm that Mr. Courser clearly brings to his writing and the subjects involved is infectious. Nevertheless, although the set-piece action scenes are the strongest areas of Deadly Dissertation, it would be nice to have the breakneck speed contrasted with some reflective passages.
Deadly Dissertation utilizes various places throughout the world and does so with solid research and knowledge. All areas from Milan to Madagascar are nicely realized and convincing. Mr. Courser writes setting with thoughtful intent, the whereabouts is always integral and complementary to the action. The little black and white prints of location that head some of the chapters add to the consideration.
Deadly Dissertation offers up a well-researched and fast-moving thriller that does not take itself too seriously and capably weaves the science with the action. Boasting a detailed, original plot and multiple locations, the reader is taken on an exhilarating ride through scientific discovery, espionage, and terrorism.
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