Big conspiracies, cyber-threats and nefarious company goings on aren't my favourite thriller material, so I was more than a little worried about my reactions to THE GENESIS FLAW. This is a first book from Australian author L.A. Larkin (who, from her blurb, works for one of Australia's leading climate change consultancies). The author's background, and the sorts of research listed that went into the book did make it something I thought might be worth having a look at despite my personal preferences.
There's an interesting combination of settings in THE GENESIS FLAW. The reader is taken from the cut-throat world of advertising and public relations, to dry land farming in Australia, the world of computer hacking and human experiments in Zimbabwe. At a break-neck pace. Serena Swift feels guilty that she wasn't there when her farming father dies. She also feels very guilty because she's always suspected that the cause of his death were the genetically modified crops that he'd planted. She came back to Australia to reconnect with her father, too late to her regret. So she what she knows she should do - and sets out to prove that the company behind the genetically modified seeds knows all too well what they have unleashed on the world.
A lot of the credibility for the threat in this book has to come from a sense of a personal threat to Serena, and her supporters, as they attempt to bring down an evil corporate empire. There's also the bigger threat to mankind as a result of a feral genetic product being released. So part of the requirement is that a reader must identify with Serena and feel very much "on her side" so to speak. This was, to be honest, a bit tricky at points through out the book, as there was something every so slightly off-putting about our heroine. Obviously some of that reaction is on purpose - Serena misses her father's death because she opts to go for a job interview - something she beats herself up for later on sure, but for some reason it didn't quite engender the empathy or sympathy that you'd possibly want in a central character. Mind you, an unsympathetic, unlikeable central character can also work - firing the reader up against that person, but in this case neither reaction quite seemed to surface. Serena remained a little lacklustre for my liking. Perhaps there was a little too much doing something unnecessary and then beating herself up afterwards? Perhaps it was one too many fem-jep situations for my liking.
The other problem is that a threat from a faceless / voiceless big corporate entity again can work - it can actually be quite creepy. But this entity seemed a little unfocused. Gene-Asis was there, but it morphed into a lurking corporate front-man and a hired killer and lost immediacy and some anonymity - which would have been a lot more sobering. There was also a lack of identification with the "victim". Serena's father was a tragic death, but it seemed somehow too localised to support the global threat of potentially mutant genetics. As horrible as it sounds, once evidence of the human experiments in Zimbabwe surfaced, and the victim's became very human, the threat became more believable and immediate; the tension and pressure increased, and a real feeling of menace came into the story.
To be fair though, I still don't like these sorts of storylines, and allowances need to be made for that. THE GENESIS FLAW is a pretty good first thriller, with a central female character that will appeal to many many readers. There's a little romance, a lot of action, a threat for those who are more comfortable with this sort of storyline, some sinister big-company goings on and a one woman against the conspiracy scenario that could absolutely deliver for fans of this sort of book.