cover image Zero Cool

Zero Cool

Michael Crichton, writing as John Lange. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-78329-121-2

In Chrichton's 1969 title, originally released under the John Lange alias and bookended by a modern framing device for its reissue, an innocent man is plunged into the midst of international intrigue. American radiologist Peter Ross heads to Barcelona to attend a professional conference and for some much needed R&R. But his first attempt to pick up a woman on the beach is interrupted when a stranger warns him that he will be killed if he agrees to perform an autopsy. Ross is baffled by the threat, and is even more confused when, just hours later, four men show up at his hotelroom and offer him $50,000 to conduct a post-mortem; they claim that an American doctor must certify the cause of death so that the corpse, belonging to a man who had gotten into trouble with the IRS, could be returned to the U.S. Ross refuses, but is advised to change his mind by a shadowy cowboy; predictably, matters aren't put to rest for Ross when he completes the autopsy. The pacing and plot twists are first-rate, and Crichton's tongue-in-cheek approach makes the more over-the-top aspects palatable. (Nov.)