Side Effect is a quick-read medical thriller. Sandra Feder, who actually worked as a research chemist, is able to lend credibility to her tale of a pharmaceutical conspiracy. She shows readers how scientists are forced to become tangled in political red tape. Feder has a knack for getting technical, showing off her science-background, and then, as a crafty writer, simplifying the terms and explanations so that everything is easier to understand.
Dr. Grant Fraser finds himself caught in a whirlwind. He has a state-of-the-art research lab, and he is engaged to a daughter of the company's president. When she dies in a plane crash, he throws himself into his research work. He has created two drugs: the Black Twin and the White Twin. Both, at the start, look promising. But without much explanation, the Black Twin is cancelled. Reports show the side effects of it are dangerous.
People are dying. Someone seems to be lacing the mail with a chemical that causes immediate death. It's possible that the Black Twin has been revived and is being used for terrorist-like tactics. Someone is following Fraser. Someone else has stolen his computer. Someone has stolen vials from his lab. Is someone trying to kill him?
Three women figure into Fraser's life. Like a guard dog is his loyal assistant, Angie. Joss is the director of communications, and perhaps Fraser's best friend. Then there is Daniele, the twin to Fraser's dead fiancée. Daniele does not like the way her father seems to favor Fraser. She wants to ensure that when her father steps down as president she is next in line for the role, and not Fraser.
Fraser thinks he knows whom he can trust, and whom he ought not trust. He might be wrong, and the mistake could cost him everything. Side Effect has plenty of plot twists. Feder starts the novel off strong, raising a bunch of questions. Like why is everything happening? What's going on? Who are these people? She moves the story with short chapters and intriguing scenes. The conspiracy may be a little thin with too many hands in the plot, but overall it is a fast thriller that reads as good as any Robin Cook novel.