Kindling Effect

Kindling Effect

by Peter Hernon
     
 
The Hardigan clinic in St. Louis is conducting top-secret brain-wave experiments--the Kindling--on prisoners from the local jail, using cutting-edge medical science that inadvertently turns them into animalistic psycho-killers. Equal parts detective work and sheer guts uncover the secrets behind closed doors at the highly sophisticated medical clinic.

Overview

The Hardigan clinic in St. Louis is conducting top-secret brain-wave experiments--the Kindling--on prisoners from the local jail, using cutting-edge medical science that inadvertently turns them into animalistic psycho-killers. Equal parts detective work and sheer guts uncover the secrets behind closed doors at the highly sophisticated medical clinic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although the jargon that supports it can be thick ("The olfactory bulb, with its hair-cell receptor neurons, had strong limbic connections to the amygdala, septum, even the hypothalamus"), the premise of Hernon's medical thriller is clear. Researchers at the prestigious, well-financed Hartigan clinic in St. Louis are on the verge of reading the brains of "ASPs, the antisocial personality," and may soon be able to control the behavior of violent criminals. They face two problems, however: the process tends to "kindle" the criminal mind, causing psychotic episodes among the clinic's inmates; and someone on the staff is helping these inmates to escape. Into this scenario steps young physician John Brook, dazzled by the opportunity to work at the clinic. There, Brook and fellow Hartigan staffer Dr. Jenny Malone, who resume their med-school affair, become involved with Edward Lind, a patient who escapes. The plot turns silly when Brook decides to meet the fugitive Lind ("I owe him that much. He trusted me") in a dark alley, even though Brook belatedly realizes Lind "could flip out at any moment and turn on him." There is mention of a Fundamentalist warden and of a right-wing Texan who provide, respectively, prisoners and money for the experiments. The story winds up with a prolonged, gory climax in the Smoky Mountains during a blizzard. Hernon (Earthly Remains, 1989) paces his action well, but his prose is only serviceable and, as a storyteller, he's no Michael Palmer or Robin Cook. Nor is he, for that matter, a Michael Crichton, who explored the premise of brain research leading to violent behavior with far more panache nearly a quarter century ago, in The Terminal Man. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this suspenseful thriller by Hernon, who coauthored the best-selling Under the Influence (LJ 7/91), two mild-mannered doctors endeavor to study violent criminals and end up being terrorized by their subjects and by their subjects' keepers. Studying the brains of two violent prisoners at a psychiatric clinic, our heroes discover that someone is changing the men's brains by causing a "kindling effect" of continuous small seizures. The seizures make the criminals even more dangerous, and the doctors' knowledge makes them a liability to the experimenter, who frees the criminals so that they may dispose of the doctors. The breathless reader will be too caught up in the suspense to notice that the amount of killing is excessive and implausible and that the motivation of the bad guys is less than clear. Recommended for thriller collections in public libraries.Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
Kirkus Reviews
An engrossingly macabre debut novel by St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent Hernon (coauthor of Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty, 1991).

In the argot of neuropathology, "kindling" is a horrific process employing an electric current to sensitize an animal's brain—to the point where it goes into spontaneous seizure and is effectively reprogrammed, permanently modifying certain behavioral patterns (antisocial or otherwise). And thereby hangs the tale spun by Hernon. His hero, John Brook, jumps at the chance to join the elite staff of Dr. Robert Hartigan's St. Louisbased clinic, celebrated for developing advanced treatments for severe mental illness, including criminal pathologies. The young forensic psychiatrist is also looking forward to renewing old acquaintances with Jenny Malone, a Ph.D. psychologist with whom he had a fling at the University of Chicago. What Brook doesn't at first appreciate is that the unscrupulous Hartigan and his ambitious subordinates are conducting dreadful experiments on the brains of unwilling convicts (supplied by a venal warden at the state penitentiary). Their efforts are underwritten by James Paulus, a wealthy (albeit delusional) conservative who's convinced kindling could solve America's violent-crime problem and put him in the White House. Unfortunately, Hartigan is experiencing grave difficulties in achieving the breakthroughs he has promised, and when two dangerous prisoners driven intermittently mad by their electroshock therapies make a successful break from the clinic, Brook finally realizes something must be done. With the intrepid Malone in tow, the determined shrink pursues Ed Lind, a bank robber he believes could be rehabilitated. Brook gets his man, and the unlikely trio heads for a sanctuary in the Smoky Mountains. Flushed from their refuge by Tom Brody, the clinic's ruthless security chief, and a crew of heavies, they make their last stand atop a forest-fire spotter's tower at the height of a November blizzard in North Carolina's hill country.

Robin Cook meets Soldier of Fortune in a gripping (if often over-the-top) thriller chock-full of medico-legal arcana.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780380726349
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/01/1997
Pages:
371
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.07(d)

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