Friday, 8 July 2011

Book Review: The Oxford Virus by Adam Kolczynski

The Oxford VirusI was intrigued by the synopsis for this book, with it's apparent blend of science with crime thriller. Dr Olembe believes he has a potential cure for cancer, and is about to start a human trial when he is approached with a desperate husband's request to try and cure his terminally ill wife. When she dies shortly after being treated it seems like an open and shut case that will bring Dr Olembe's trial to a premature end. However DCI Dardai asks Professor Konstantin Zolotov, former medical student, current head of Russian and E. European Studies of Clapperton College, to help him uncover the truth. Is a second death, apparently a suicide, linked to the first, and does Zolotov know more about the case than he is letting on?

The characters in this book are so diverse, representing a veritable United Nations of people. The first part of the book dealing with Dr Olembe's hopes for his new treatment was interesting, containing enough of the science to make it credible but without being overly technical and bogging the reader down. The next part mainly revolved around Zolotov, a flamboyant character who surprised me time and again, and his investigation into the deaths. The end of the book drew together the threads and brought things to a surprising conclusion. I didn't feel that I was able to get behind any of the characters in great depth, but other than Zolotov they mainly served as vehicles for the his investigation and with their various backgrounds and quirks provided plenty of colour. I think I would have liked a little more of the science and police investigation, and more time on the final conclusion as the largest part of the book was the off the wall investigation by someone who seems a very strange choice on the part of DCI Dardai, with no apparent investigative credibility.

This is a rather cerebral book with a wonderful vocabulary that would have had me flicking to the dictionary had I been reading it on the kindle. However it didn't come across as a writer who is over-using a thesaurus, rather it was reflective of the main protagonist. I was grateful for the glossary of Russian terms at the end. It is certainly a different style of crime novel, the closest book in this vein I have previously read would be The Company of Fellows by Dan Holloway. The author has created some brilliant imagery, which in places made me smile despite the events unfolding.

This book took me no time to read, although I did feel that in places I had to re-read parts to fully understand the point being made, but if you like a more literary crime novel this book is worth a look.

Format: Paperback, review copy
My Rating: 3*

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