BOOKS / Lo] An angel in genes: The Annunciation - Patrick Lynch: Heinemann, pounds 15.99

YOU WANT genetic research? Miracle beauty products? Ecoterrorism? Mad doctors? Mad scientists? Sinister Swiss businessmen? Overweight Californian private eyes? Beautiful ski instructresses? Investment analysts in red braces? A heroine so spunky that even while she's having her ovaries plundered by mad scientists she can still knock out a Bach partita on a Stradivarius? A hero prepared to undergo a nose job to rescue the woman he loves? If you want all that, you want The Annunciation. It's the first in a trilogy; we are promised The Immaculate Conception in 1994 and The Resurrection in 1995.

Annunciations require virgins, of course. This one, unlikely as it may seem, is Cathy Ryder, Wall Street cosmetics industry investment analyst. She's on the slide at Webber Atlantic, having lost the firm a ton of money in recent months, and needs a break - an angel. And lo, up pops Ernst Krystal, who gives her a hot tip which pays off in spades: shadowy Swiss outfit Mendelhaus (geddit?) has a new anti-ageing glop which is going to make all rival glops look like, well, glop . . .

Meanwhile the career of Mike Varela, Anglo-Saxonised Latino from the wrong side of the tracks - well, Queens - has really gone down the tubes. The deal he constructed for Swift and Drew, involving Mendelhaus taking over their closest American rivals, is suddenly off, his security pass won't open the office door, and he hasn't even made the first payment on the BMW. By the twanging of his red braces he knows something is wrong; perhaps if he cuddles up to Cathy Ryder he'll find out what . . .

Again meanwhile, on the West Coast, grumpy private dick Harry Waterman (dollars 275 a day plus expenses) is checking something out for the Centre for Disease Control; two ageing tough-guy movie stars have suddenly died almost simultaneously of heart cancer, such a colossal statistical improbability that most people assume it was really Aids that killed them. Oddly, they both appear to have gone to Switzerland for a little nip-and-tuck not long before they died . . .

Yet again meanwhile, in an Alpine clinic accessible only by helicopter, loony geneticist Edward Geiger is very close to a breakthrough. (We know he's a loony, because he says things like 'Wrong. Right. What has that got to do with science?' and 'We cannot wait for evolution.') All he needs is a special woman. Her virginity is neither here nor there, as it turns out . . .

There are plenty of deaths, chases, helicopter rides, explosions, grubbing around in ventilation shafts, hiding in broom cupboards, even some good old-fashioned detective work. There's plenty of science and high finance, both fairly opaque; quite a lot of gynaecology too. The whole thing is a big fat combination of medical thriller and financial thriller, with a dollop of Indiana Jones thrown in - utterly ludicrous, but ludicrously enjoyable too, the sort of thing you don't mind anointing with suntan oil. The blurb describes Lynch as a 'major storyteller', which is usually code for 'semi-literate perpetrator of incoherent blockbusters', but is not far from the truth in this case.

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