Fiction review: The Trial
By JAY STRAFFORD
You've seen the commercials: A prescription drug has caused death or serious illness. A body-part replacement has been shown to be defective. And what should you do? Why, call the law firm of Chasem and Suem, of course. The ads keep coming, and you're simultaneously amused and annoyed.
But what if the victim were you, or your spouse, or your child?
That's the premise of Houston lawyer and author Larry D. Thompson's "The Trial," a theme-park ride of a thriller.
At 40, Houston litigator Luke Vaughan suffers a perforated ulcer and decides to move himself and teen daughter Samantha (wife and mother Josie has run off to Nashville) to his hometown of San Marcos in the Texas Hill Country. Once there, he creates a quieter life for himself just as Samantha, upset with being uprooted, begins rebelling.
Flash-forward a few years, and Samantha, now a college student who needs some spending cash, signs up for a drug trial in which she's given Exxacia, a supposed wonder med for sinus problems. Drugmaker Cevanta already has received numerous reports of serious side effects in Europe, but Alfred Kingsbury, a physician and the head of Cevanta's North American unit, is determined to win the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.
And never mind the human cost, as Kingsbury, resolved to profit personally, stops at nothing: not perjury, not bribery, not kidnapping and especially not murder.
Samantha, of course (or there wouldn't be much of a plot), suffers liver failure, and Luke sues Cevanta in hopes of winning enough money to pay for a lifesaving transplant for his daughter. The trial that follows, presided over by the crafty and kindly Judge Chester A. Nimitz (a fictional nephew of the real-life admiral), packs all the emotional peaks and valleys that readers expect from a good thriller.
Too many thriller writers are content to showcase their plotting skills while creating cardboard characters, but not Thompson. You'll care about Luke and Samantha and their friends, you'll find Chuck Nimitz the epitome of what a judge should be, and you'll despise Alfred Kingsbury for the contemptible greedhead he is.
And "The Trial" raises serious issues about the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government's oversight (or is it it overlook?) of the meds we ingest for so many health problems. With this entertaining novel, Thompson has created a double whammy: a thief of sleep as you turn the pages and a fount of fear as you take your next prescription pill.
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