Paul Levinson, . . Tor, $24.95 (316pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0098-0

In this latest, disappointing case from the files of forensic investigator Phil D'Amato (after 1999's The Silk Code), a flu epidemic is sweeping the nation and young women are turning up naked and strangled in New York City's Riverside Park. Oddly, several witnesses to the murders, all recent flu sufferers, seem to have trouble remembering what they've seen. Then D'Amato's girlfriend comes down with the flu and forgets that he's recently proposed to her. Later, D'Amato himself catches the bug and discovers that a day has disappeared from his memory as well. What ties these bouts of short-term amnesia together turns out to be not simply the flu but a new wonder drug, Omnin. D'Amato soon finds himself investigating both the serial murders and the increasingly serious possibility that Omnin and other advanced antibiotics may in fact be on the verge of destroying human memory. Unfortunately, Levinson's flat prose and almost tension-free narrative prevent this novel from taking off. The murders, which all occur offstage, and the victims, none of whom we really care about, fail to engage. The medical mystery, although not without some intellectual interest, is equally lacking in tension. The author also has the annoying habit of pulling rabbits out of hats. Top-notch bacteriologists and mysterious millionaire benefactors repeatedly turn up to render expert testimony or twist the arms of a hostile FDA committee when needed. Levinson is widely considered to be one of the better new SF writers, but this novel won't enhance his reputation. (Mar. 13)

Forecast:The book could be targeted to fans of medical thrillers and police procedurals, though neither audience is likely to be that impressed.