Jean-Christophe Grange, , trans. from the French by Ian Monk. . Harvill, $25 (408pp) ISBN 978-1-86046-864-3

Mongolian mysticism, assassins with psychic powers, a nuclear accident and a lethal unknown villain are only a few of the obstacles a lone woman must overcome to save her comatose adopted son in this unusual thriller. Diane Thiberge was brutally attacked as a teen and avoids social contact until adopting a young Asian boy from a Bangkok orphanage. Seven-year-old Lucien turns her life around, but only three weeks after his arrival, a car accident near her home in Paris leaves him in a coma. Mysterious doctor Rolf van Kaen makes a midnight hospital visit and reverses the coma, but is later found with his heart exploded in a slaughter technique the police trace to northern Mongolia; van Kaen himself is identified as a former East German Communist who worked at a nuclear fusion lab (tokamak) in Mongolia. Convinced the car wreck was no accident, Diane investigates Lucien's background and discovers that he is a member of a tiny Mongolian tribe, the Tsevens, who live near the tokamak, and that he was a chosen child, a spiritual medium for his people. A revelation from Lucien sends her to Moscow, then on to Mongolia as she fights to save her adopted son. Each character comes quirkily alive on the page in this action-packed tale, and despite its tortuous curves, the plot never loses the reader. The excessive gore, over-the-top revelations and psychic spin may deter some, but Grange's paranormal screamer of a thriller succeeds on its own terms. (Feb.)