Andrew Gross Reviews Living Proof
At what stage does human life actually begin? Where does "right" reside when state-run religion and medical science collide? In the clashing rocks of faith and human desire, will it be courage or blind devotion to duty that prevails, and can love chart a course between them?
These are a few of the bold themes raised in Kira Peikoff's thought-provoking new thriller, Living Proof, set in the all-too-foreseeable future where the government controls all pregnancies and fertilizations in the ideological battleground between state-enforced values and scientific advancement. Dr. Arianna Drake runs a Manhattan fertilization clinic, but she also harbors a dangerous secret: she suffers from an advancing case of multiple sclerosis, and in conjunction with a brilliant researcher, once a colleague of her scientist parents, Arianna has set up a clandestine, underground lab using outlawed stem cells to find a cure to her disease. But if the state discovers her, she and her coconspirators will be imprisoned for life and her potentially lifesaving research shut down.
Trent Rowe is an agent for the state's Department of Embryo Preservation: devout, ambitious, and, at the same time, searching for true meaning in his religiously dominated life. His fervent Catholic upbringing made him a willing soldier in the war against sacrificing embryos, cloning, and "baby killing." Trent's fanatical boss, Gideon Dopp, suspects Arianna's operation and gives Trent the assignment of getting close to her and exposing her illegal activities. Activities that, if successful, could heal vast numbers of people stricken with her disease.
What takes place is virtually a tug-of-war between devotion and conscience for Trent's unsettled soul—the combatants being his Jauvert-like boss, who hunts Arianna with single-minded zeal; the intense pushing of Trent's religiously driven family for advancement in his career; Trent's growing attraction to Arianna, which threaten his convictions; and his slowly evolving belief that what she and her colleagues are doing is, in truth, not evil at all, but in fact creating a greater good. Arianna's increasing trust in Trent puts her at odds with her lab-mates who are risking everything, worried that any slip in security could cost them their lives.
Peikoff may be a first-time novelist, but she is totally adept at keeping things moving and never polemical, and always balancing the personal, human drama with the science of stem-cell technology and the clock-ticking machinations of the state. Arianna and Trent's delicately evolving love story becomes the battleground of the novel's moral conflict, as Trent faces the Antigone-like choice of either betraying the state and the moral code that has raised him, or the person he has grown to love. Peikoff shows a sophisticated touch in balancing the science and the countdown to potential disaster with the drama of rising human feelings that is the true engine of the book.
If, like me, you like your thrillers deeply human and always rising in consequence and what's at stake, Living Proof is one for you: page-turning, intellectually stimulating, emotionally satisfying. In this battle between courage and blind duty, it's worth finding out which wins out in the end.
Andrew Gross is the award-winning author of several novels, the latest of which is Eyes Wide Open.
Praise for Living Proof
Taut, energetic, and imaginative... A remarkable debut! (Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Fragile
"Risky, daring. This story reminded me of the best of Margaret Atwood: a chilling and tangible portrait of the near future, where the best and the worst of humanity is challenged at every turn."
Kira Peikoff's imagination is a wonder to behold and an amazing place to visit. You have to check this one out. (Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Jefferson Key
A terrific read--tightly woven and tense as a coiled snake. (Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of A Heartbeat Away
is a rare book. A thriller that keeps you turning pages. A novel of suspense fraught with danger… Kira Peikoff belongs to a very small cadre of writers to watch… I cannot wait to see what she writes next! (M. J. Rose, international bestselling author of The Hypnotist
Makes you think, makes you sweat, leaves you happy--everything a good book should. (Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels
A compelling and thought-provoking thriller…this frighteningly plausible novel will keep you turning the pages all night long. A stunning debut. (Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author of Impact
Peikoff's unsettling, timely debut presents an uncomfortably plausible near-future, in which the destruction of all human embryos has been outlawed in the name of saving the lives of unborn children. … This engaging effort marks her as an author to watch. (Publishers Weekly
[Peikoff] has taken serious cultural debates from our present-day society and blended them into a tale that's not very fantastical, since we're not far off from bringing this extremely frightening story to life….[Peikoff] will find legions of fans that will admire her 'moxie' and look forward to her second novel. For anyone interested in a writer who cuts to the chase over a highly difficult subject, this is the book for you. (Suspense Magazine
Living Proof is a well-written thriller that deals with issues of great relevance in today's world: When exactly does an embryo become a human being? Whose life is of most value? To her great credit, Peikoff creates believable, well-rounded characters who represent both sides of a tough moral question. (Mystery Scene Magazine
The two protagonists are dealing with life and death and even love at a time when religious fanatics are allowed to carry guns into fertility clinics, and scientists are under microscopes. Living Proof is a startling, perceptive debut that examines repercussions for the future if emotion is allowed to trump knowledge. (Award-winning reviewer Lesa Holstine
Not only does the book force the reader to think about larger issues, but the journey of the characters, and their change in ideology and purpose as the narrative proceeds is so multi-layered and advanced for a debut novel, and worth reading for that alone. (Chantelle Aimee Osman, Poisoned Pen Bookstore
"An intense, thought-provoking thrill ride that will linger within your subconscious long after you have read it. If you are looking for a sharp, fast-paced
knockout of a novel that pushes its reader to the edge and forces self reflection and contemplation, then this is a must."