Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

The Devil’s Cure

by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel produced his first novel for children at the age of 15 and, having published an average of one a year for the last 16 years, is clearly looking for new areas to conquer. But The Devil’s Cure, his debut in the adult suspense genre, is unlikely to have the same market impact as his juvenile fiction.

Laura Donaldson, an ambitious cancer researcher working in Chicago, is driven by personal ambition and by a sister dying from the disease. Routine lab tests on a blood sample show remarkable properties, including a previously unknown cancer-fighting agent. The problem is that the blood belongs to David Haines, a death row inmate due to be executed within weeks. Haines, a convicted serial killer of physicians involved in medical research, holds personal religious beliefs against blood donation and won’t co-operate. Donaldson manages to get a court order to obtain Haines’ blood, but he uses the involuntary donation as an opportunity to escape.

It’s difficult to identify what keeps The Devil’s Cure from being truly remarkable. The book has everything a contemporary medical thriller should have – topicality, sound plotting, good writing, competent characterization, and a story worth telling. What’s absent is that unique perspective, weird plot twist, or especially memorable character that makes a book unforgettable, and elevates it above the competing torrent of equally competent suspense and thriller fiction. It is ironic that Oppel’s previous success may work against him, raising expectations higher than those faced by competing medical thriller writers. Fans who grew up with his past books may be somewhat disappointed, while readers who have never heard of him will probably consign him into the “promising” category and wait to see if he advances to the next level.