(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky MAR 22, 2006)
“Another shriek took her breath away. She watched the nurse enter one of the two delivery rooms. The patient’s cries were much louder with the door open, hitting her like sharp slaps in the face.”
Alan Nayes’s Gargoyles features spunky and beautiful Amoreena Daniels, a twenty-one year old premed student in California whose mother, Geneva, is dying of cancer. Unfortunately, Geneva’s health insurance policy has lapsed. Amoreena cannot afford to pay for the expensive treatment that her mother desperately needs if she is to have any chance of survival. The young woman makes a fateful decision to sign herself up as a surrogate mother at a place called the Women’s Clinic. The money that Amoreena stands to earn will help defray Geneva’s astronomical medical costs.
The Women’s Clinic is owned by Meechum Medical Corporation, which, unsurprisingly, is a greedy pharmaceutical firm run by unscrupulous and ruthless executives. These individuals are willing to take ethical shortcuts in the name of big profits. Only after Amoreena becomes pregnant does she get wind of the fact that the clinic personnel are hiding some very unpleasant details from her. As Geneva’s condition worsens, Amoreena finds out that Meechum is involved in a much more nefarious business than mere surrogate motherhood.
Gargoyles’s plot is familiar, but Nayes diverges from the paint-by-numbers formula in enough ways to make the story engrossing. Amoreena is not your typical Teflon heroine. She makes mistakes, acts impulsively, shows poor judgment, and has unbelievably bad luck. In addition, she has no love interest or any hint of one. The villains, alas, are stock characters, a few of whom who rationalize their actions in the name of medical research. Some of the other bad guys are out and out sadists.
The writing is literate and fast-paced, and most readers will find themselves turning pages late into the night to learn Amoreena’s fate. The author provides enough medical details to lend the novel verisimilitude, and the obligatory chase scenes, some of which take place in the jungles of Guatemala, are suspenseful and exciting. Nayes wisely avoids tying up all of the loose ends, leaving the reader with the disturbing idea that there could be scientists who would engage in grotesque medical experimentation if they thought that they could get away with it.
- Amazon readers rating: from 14 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Official website for Alan Nayes
- New Mystery Reader review of Gargoyles
- The Mystery Reader review of The Unnatural
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About the Author:
Alan Nayes grew up on the Texas gulf coast. After attending medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, he moved to Southern California where he divides his time and energies between practicing medicine and writing. He enjoys reading , exercising, and relaxing and fishing at the family vacation home on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.