Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #87: Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben

I didn’t realize while reading this book, which I found on the freebie shelf at my local library, that Miracle Cure has actually been out of print forever and was just re-published last year. It was one of Coben’s earliest books and was written in 1991. I did pick up the fact that this was a somewhat less “mature” book than many of Coben’s later works, primarily in the sense of less character development. However, I was struck by the fact that Coban dared to choose a highly controversial subject to write about – AIDS—and took a clear stance in defense of AIDS sufferers, both homosexual and heterosexual. I give him major kudos for that, and for the excellent Coben twist at the end which took me by surprise.

The plot centers around a private clinic funded heavily by the government whose founders, research scientists Harvey Riker and Bruce Grey, have apparently discovered a cure for AIDS. However, three of the clinic’s six success stories have been gruesomely murdered, and the story opens with Grey fleeing for his life while in possession of a huge secret. He is caught by his pursuer and tortured, then thrown out a high-floor hotel window, leaving a forced suicide note behind. In classical Coben style, we get to see the story played out from a number of different viewpoints, starting with Grey himself and the hired assassin’s, then the other members of the research team. We are also given a ringside seat inside the minds of popular TV journalist Sara Lowell, whose basketball star husband becomes the hub of the action halfway through the story, her sister Cassandra,  and NY police lieutenant Max “Twitch” Bernstein.

In the course of following the non-stop action and the clues behind the murders, we are let in on a conspiracy by rightwing southern televangelist  and raging homophobe Ernest Sanders, National Institutes of Health bureaucrat Raymond Markey, Senator Stephen Jenkins, and Sara and Cassandra’s father Dr. John Lowell, whose resentment of AIDs research as a drain on his own cancer cure obsession turns him into a conspirator against the AIDS clinic as well. But which one is behind all the murders and clearly willing to stop at nothing to prevent the AIDS cure from becoming a reality?

Some have criticized this novel for getting “preachy” on the AIDS question, on homophobia, etc., but I found it interesting and refreshing, written as it was twenty years ago. True, the AIDS epidemic in the US was not new at the time, but it was in 1991—and remains today—a highly controversial issue that needs constant airing, and to the end, Coben’s attempt was a worthy one.

The end of the novel occurs at breakneck speed, with the final revelations proving in equal measure both stunning  … and improbable. True, this is early Coben, but for all that, vintage Coben.

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