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    Review of THE PLAGUE TALES by Ann Benson

    Dell, May 1998

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    In the future, antibiotics have become mostly useless and large portions of the population are dead from outbreaks of disease. Janie Crow, a surgeon who is retraining to be a forensic pathologist, is on a research trip in England. One of her soil samples turns up a deadly surprise that sends events spiraling out of control. Janie quickly finds herself running from the all-powerful Bio-cops with the help her old friend Bruce.

    In the past, physician Alejandro Canches is dealing with the dangers of the Black Plague in the 14th century as well as the peril of being a hidden Jew moving in a Christian world. Both Alejandro and Janie find romance in the midst of disaster, but will they each find a cure for the plague?

    This book has a lot of interesting concepts, and I wanted to like it. However, in the end, I just wanted to be done with it. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and they all make frustratingly irrational choices. The introduction of a mystical element halfway through jars with the science-feel of the rest of the book. The ending is tacked on out of nowhere - I actually had to check to make sure I hadn't accidentally skipped any pages.

    The chapters alternate between the two stories, and this works fairly well, but there is a tenuous connection between the two at best. Both plots rely heavily on the reader's suspension of disbelief - in the end the coincidences that drive the plot twists are painfully obvious and approach the absurd. Alejandro's story is more logically consistent than Janie's story, and Alejandro is an interesting and sympathetic character. Regrettably, I had a very hard time sympathizing with any character in Janie's tale.

    One Star

    Reviewed 1/27/05

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