Mesmerizing Stranger
by Jennifer Greene
(SRS #1626, $4.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-373-27696-7
Harm Connolly inherits his uncle's pharmaceutical business shortly after they discovered a cure for pancreatic cancer. Of their products, two new drugs had passed  FDA by then, and a brand-new one – the best, a  true miracle drug – was a pinch away from the last clinical trials. Upon assuming command, Harm discovers that the money for the drug, the clinical trials data as well as the formula for the drug, are all missing.

Readers will have to suspend all disbelief to accept the premise that all the copies of the data from all sources, all patent application data, all FDA applications, all formulas for the making of the drug necessarily lodged in multiple places as well as specifically all money allocated for the last clinical trial was gone in one fell swoop, stolen by one of the four members of the Senior Management Team.

Harm charters a yacht in the Alaska waters, to cruise around with these four men until he figures out which one is the thief. Private investigators have been unable to detect any extra money or lifestyle changes with each of the suspects.  Cate Campbell is the adventure chef on this voyage and she is the best developed character of the book.  It is not long before Harm shares with Cate the story of why he is there and his purpose for the voyage. This lack of discretion, in the business world of CEOs, also is surprising.

Cate lost her parents in a house fire when she was eight and she and her sisters had been separated in foster homes during their childhood. Footloose since acquiring expertise in the culinary arts and a reputation to match, Cate enjoys her peripatetic existence. And it is Cate who predicts the probable artificial cause of a heart attack that fells one of the four members of the management team.

Shortly after that Cate is the victim of a strange accident, and Harm understands events are coming to a head. Meanwhile, against his own wishes, he is drawn further and further by Cate's charm and finds himself truly in love for the first time. Cate, on the other hand, is averse to any thoughts of settling down.

Except for Cate and to a much lesser degree Harm, the characters are portrayed as mere sketches and the dialog does little to enhance their images. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the author fails to utilize the Alaskan waterway scenery to add texture to the voyage.

--Thea Davis

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