3 out of 4 stars
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The basic premise of The Cocaspore Project is all too plausible; a brilliant bioscientist theorizes a plant-killing fungus genetically engineered to be specific to the coca plant. He finds government funding for his project and the book picks up the story as the project is nearing what appears to be a successful conclusion.
Naturally, there are any number of people who absolutely do not want to see the project succeed. Dr Paul Sloan, the bioscientist, finds himself and his family threatened by ruthless men who stand to lose billions of dollars if Sloan can succeed in his mission to destroy the coca plant, and with it, the entire cocaine trade.
Discovering that word of his work has somehow leaked to those who would do anything to see him fail, Sloan turns to a Navy admiral, the only man who warned him ahead of time that he was likely to encounter dangerous resistance. The admiral is hampered by the Navy’s regulations, but still able to place a skilled intelligence operative, Miguel Franco, to watch over Sloan at his home base in Chicago.
The Cocaspore Project follows Sloan and Franco as they both race against the clock; Sloan to complete the testing phase of the project and hand it off to the military and Franco to somehow protect Sloan and his innocent family and friends from becoming collateral damage in the war on drugs. Driven by personal tragedy, Sloan is determined to succeed, but so are his enemies, and their resources are very nearly limitless.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable suspense thriller. Too often in thrillers, I find that too much suspension of disbelief is required in order to enjoy the book, but that was most certainly not the case here. From the beginning, the plot was completely plausible; to be honest, the only thing I found unlikely was that the project was not already being handled ‘in-house’ by the military, but considering Sloan’s background and his personal investment in seeing the cocaine trade destroyed, I allowed that one to slide. The science in the book was both accurate as far as I could tell and easily explained to the layperson; it was excellently done and I congratulate the author on his expertise on the subject, which shone clearly through in his writing.
Don Ricardo and his sidekicks were just as brutal as one would expect from drug traffickers and their enforcers, and there were some seriously gripping action scenes, especially when the traitor inside the government was revealed to be someone with the power to seriously derail the whole operation.
With two male protagonists in Sloan and Franco, the author did fall slightly into the trap of having the females in the story be little more than ‘arm candy’. Sloan’s wife and daughter were basically just there to play damsels in distress, and his lab assistant Denise became Franco’s love interest rather than getting her own story arc. In addition, I found myself distracted a little too frequently from the storyline by spelling and grammar errors which should be picked up by a competent editor.
In conclusion, I genuinely enjoyed The Cocaspore Project and I would particularly recommend it to fans of medical and biological thrillers such as those by Robin Cook. Those who enjoy TV shows about the drug trade such as Narcos and Queen Of The South will find the story thrilling and relevant.
However, I don’t feel quite able to award it top marks, for the editing issues I mentioned and the almost complete sidelining of female characters. I would urge the author to consider including more strong women in his works in order to appeal to a wider audience; there is no real reason why Dr Paul Sloan could not have been Dr Pauline Stone, in my opinion.
For these reasons, I am awarding The Cocaspore Project a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
The Cocaspore Project
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