Is the propensity to violence a kind of virus? That's the intriguing question addressed by this engrossing thriller, in which a research team's investigation of man's inhumanity to man leads to a modern-day Heart of Darkness climax. The Joseph Conrad echo is deliberate--crucial scenes in the novel take place in the Congo--but the science is pure 21st century. Ryan McCloud and his African-American wife, Jessamine, are participants in a think tank near Boston when they accept funding from a company called Ridder Global to search out the causes of modern evil. Some members of their team focus on genetics, others on high-tech contamination, but Jess is fascinated with the viral angle, christening it the Babel Effect, after a term used by a televangelist she finds curiously compelling. Ryan, meanwhile, worries that a personal agenda is clouding Jess's judgment--her sister Allison was killed by terrorists at Ghiza--but he has to believe that Jess is on the right track when he returns from a harrowing trip to the Congo to discover that she's been kidnapped.
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