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Chemistry lessons, applied in real life

Stephenie Meyer’s latest book is her first adult suspense novel. Pic/Getty Images
Stephenie Meyer’s latest book is her first adult suspense novel. Pic/Getty Images

She may be the queen of young adult vampire tales, but Stephenie Meyer can write a mean thriller.

Her latest book, The Chemist (Hachette, India), is a page-turner. In it, the usual vampires and parasitic alien race, staples of her previous books, are missing.

Instead, there are regular human beings, and superbly skilled dogs. The protagonist Alex, a chemist skilled in effective interrogation techniques, is an ex-US government agent on the run. She is joined by a handsome and too-nice love interest, and a highly capable Navy Seal, also on the run.

For a plot that revolves around attempted assassinations and political intrigue, the book isn’t too dramatic. But the action scenes, when they do happen, are taut and don’t focus on the violence as much as skill and technique. The scientific details are realistic and intriguing, without bogging down the plot. Alex’s daily safety precautions — syringes filled with deadly solutions, breakable glass earrings filled with gas, homemade poison gas, sleeping in the bathtub with a gas mask — are exhaustive but give an accurate indication of her skill and paranoia. There is also a pack of highly-skilled dogs performing eyebrow-raising feats.

The love story (we didn’t expect otherwise) drags the book down in the middle. There are long patches where nothing much happens; there is instead cooking, watching movies and singing Total Eclipse of the Heart in the kitchen. We pass that off as her desire to build up the romance around two of the lead characters.

That apart, there’s enough intrigue in this book to help you forget about the vampires. And we love a story that revolves around a female lead, whose greatest asset is her brain. The intelligent dogs are an added bonus.

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