When starting a book, I will normally check if it is a series. In books such as Toxic Effects , it is necessary to read the first book without being completely lost. There is a lot of back-story in the first book which explains why Cristina Silva, our protagonist, has the memories of two different people. There is so much story we miss without reading the first book, that I will do something I normally do and suggest you read the first book first as you may end up being lost like I was. Even without reading the first book, Joel Shulkin’s sophomore novel is an interesting and somewhat unbelievable mystery about those who have memories of multiple people and those who are having their memories taken away repeatedly. There are two separate storylines that don’t connect until the very end, but I will say the last 30 pages are the most suspenseful in the book.
When Cristina Silva begins her new position at Longwood Memory Center, assisting a Dr. Campbell with a memory study, She receives a telephone call from an FBI contact, that an unknown assassin is killing her old co-workers from the pharmaceutical company, Remind, that has now been shut down. Her contact believes it could be someone from Zero Dark, a criminal enterprise. Dama Branca, the female assassin, is one that had her memory stolen from Zero Dark, and is now targeting Cristina, though she is unsure why she could not kill her.
Gary Wilson, Cristina’s ex-lover, is a detective investigating the death of several teens after taking a memory enhancing drug, made in a specialized pharmacy. The three teens who have passed, all acted bizarrely in the days before their death, their only link being this memory pill, though Wilson is unsure how they were able to get the drug. They all speak of Sack Man before their deaths. Reggie Horne, the one connection to all of them that is still alive, describes Sack Man as a hooded boogeyman. Wilson realizes that Reggie’s connection may make him the next casualty and he vows to help him.
Though described as a medical thriller, Toxic Effects is much more action than medical, though I found the medical pieces interesting. But it is complex and not a light read, the reader must pay attention as there is so much to miss. But this novel mixes sci-fi, a little romance, medical mysteries while creating a memorable heroine and villain, who have the same memories. This is not my usual genre, but I enjoyed this very much and found the characters well-layered and relatable.