While the book is considered
the second volume in an "Emortality" series, it works well as a
stand-alone SF mystery. (There are a few references to things in the first
book, Inherit The Earth.) A number of similarly-aged people are being murdered
by means of intricately genetically engineered plants.
The story is set in a 25th
century that is recovering from bio wars and climate change. The affluent can
afford long life extension. The most powerful force in the world is the
Megamall, the super-corporation resulting from consolidation of businesses. And
the first murder victim is part of an effort to change the way humanity lives.
It turns into a trail of
related murders by plants designed to devour a particular individual. Each
victim has been visited by the same young woman. And each murder is planned so
the investigators will follow the trail just a few steps behind the killer. At
each murder is left a clue with references to 19th century literature. The
victims seem to have attended the same college.
UN detectives Charlotte
Holmes and Hal Watson are on the case, but making limited progress. In spite
of the names, they bare little resemblance to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
As one of the few bioengineers known to be capable of designing such incredible
plants, Oscar Wilde is viewed as a suspect and an expert. Soon his
intelligence, expertise and feel for the people and work in the field puts him
at the forefront of the effort to solve the crimes. His knowledge of old
literature also helps him with the clues. Michael Lowenthal from the MegaMall
also joins the team, but what he is trying to accomplish is not always clear.
Oscar Wilde says his
instincts and knowledge tell him the genetic engineering is the work of
Rappaccini, who has not been seen in quite a while. Even if Rappaccini is responsible,
much remains a mystery...