I am a sucker for a good conspiracy thriller that is based upon science, even moreso if it has a powerful environmental message behind it. Deadout by Jon McGoran structures a nice thriller around the timely and controversial subject of bee die-offs, genetically modified organisms, and the various theories surrounding both. McGoran, author of
Drift and a longtime writer about food and sustainability, focuses on a secretive agenda behind a Monsanto-style corporation called Stoma Corporation, a giant biotech firm with its own plans to solve the global bee die-off crisis with genetically engineered “superbees.”
The action takes place on the lovely Martha’s Vineyard, where Detective Doyle Carrick vacations with his lover, an organic farmer named Nola Watkins. Nola learns that the island’s own bee population is dying from a mysterious disease and sets out with the local farmers to find out what it is and how to stop it. Meanwhile, Doyle has eyes for a superhot bee expert who happens to work for Stoma, and before long, he is just as embroiled in the conspiracy as everyone else.
When people begin to disappear who speak out against Stoma and its true motives and the Stoma superbees turn into violent little weapons of death, Doyle realizes that Stoma is not at all what it claims to be. As the deadly deeds of Stoma become more obvious to Doyle, he realizes he has to stop the corporation’s plans, and their dangerous private security goons, before they take their sinister agenda to the mainland, and eventually the entire world.
Deadout presents a tense look at the whole GMO controversy and what can go wrong if in the wrong hands, and the backdrop of beekeeping and raising bees is intriguing and interesting--even to this reader, who has a dread fear of the little buggers. Though the characters are a bit cardboard and lack depth, and it’s hard to like Doyle off the bat when he’s eyeing another woman while on vacay with his own
(and the author’s propensity for the word “smile” in all its derivative forms gets to be a little annoying), the story holds attention and raises the alarming question of just how far we are willing to let our food supply, and the bees that pollinate it, be placed in the hands of those who may or may not have our best interests at heart.