cover image Venom


Joan Brady, Touchstone, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7011-3

Brady fails to make the most of an intriguing premise in this sequel to 2005's Bleedout. Wealthy Helen Freyl of Springfield, Ill., owns a small farm in Caton, Ala., where a curious strain of honeybees produces an unusual honey with unheard of healing properties. Helen, along with her crusty, imperious grandmother, become enmeshed, to their delight, in a struggle between two pharmaceutical giants vying for the patent to the bees' venom. Things turn infinitely darker after the women discover that one of the companies is conducting deadly experiments on the unsuspecting inhabitants of a region in Belarus not far from the infamous Chernobyl disaster. When Helen realizes her life is in danger, she turns for help to ex-con David Marion, who seized a chance to make people believe he was dead by blowing up his Springfield house in the first chapter. Readers with a taste for a well-written story who don't mind a sedate pace will be satisfied, but those looking for thrills to match the opening scene may be disappointed. (Aug.)