Monday, November 25, 2013

The Lazarus Effect, reviewed by Todd Stone

The Lazarus Effect sees the return of Gary Drake, detective we first met a decade earlier in Vigilante Justice. Ten years haven’t been good to Drake–he’s in prison, his family is dead, he is HIV-positive, and when other inmates discover he’s a cop, they beat him to death.

But like the book’s Biblical namesake, Gary Drake returns. “After his death, Gary Drake’s life became more interesting.”

A cynical prison doc makes a last-ditch effort to save Drake’s life by administering an unauthorized injection of a secret, experimental drug code named “Lazarus.” After the injection, Drake’s fatal wounds mysteriously and rapidly heal and his AIDS goes into remission. Drake then awakens from his beating-induced coma with with no memory of the beating or last ten years behind bars.

Taking up Drake’s cause, the prison doc contacts Drake’s old friend and almost love interest, police Captain Marjorie Brooks. Brooks, it seems, has found out about the Lazarus drug the hard way. A cop killer she has in custody should be dead from the bullets her police squad put into him, but instead is fit as a fiddle.

Now Drake and Brooks have to find the source of the Lazarus drug and get and keep it out of the wrong hands. Their quest leads them into the shadowy and very dangerous world of undercover operatives, and Drake once again finds his life on the line, but this time even a wonder drug may not save him.

There’s real excitement and action in The Lazarus Effect, as well as fine writing. The Lazarus Effect moves, and LaRocca’s “take” on the classic police mystery means The Lazarus Effect is one part mystery, one part thriller, and the rest pure engagement. Moreover, LaRocca doesn’t let either Drake or the reader off the hook with a simplistic ending. LaRocca’s work puts some tough questions in front of the reader: is defacto immortality really a good thing when evil doers can live forever as well? What if ten years’ worth of guilt could be lifted from you, but only at the cost of shattering your dreams about someone you loved? Who deserves a second chance, or maybe a third?

The Lazarus Effect is an interesting tale from an interesting author. Let’s hope we see more Gary Drake stories from Michael LaRocca soon.

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