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Saturday 2 October 2021

‘The Catalyst’ by Boyd Morrison

Published by Sphere,
5 February 2015.  
ISBN: 978-0-7515-47207-7 (PB)

Imagine you’ve accidentally discovered a scientific process which creates diamonds as pure as the natural kind and allows you to ‘grow’ a stone hundreds of carats in weight. You could be rich beyond the dreams of Euromillions. And if someone tried to steal the process, you’d run like the wind. You might even run if the rights to all that wealth didn’t strictly speaking belong to you, but to the academic institution where you did the research. Especially if the potential thieves were also violent, deceitful and clearly the baddest kind of bad guys: the kind who impersonate policemen in a way which makes the good guys appear to be the cheats and liars, and clearly aren’t planning to leave anyone alive to tell the tale.

Boyd Morrison is a past master of this kind of thriller – and it’s a kind which also involves car chases, near-misses, unlikely heroes and a bit of science which could conceivably be made to work in the real world. The Catalyst is no exception. I apply the 50-page test to every book I read, and I was on page 103 of this one before I stopped for breath. It was even longer before I thought to look at the page numbers at all.

In the first three chapters there are two murders, an attempted robbery and a catastrophic fire, and the adventure hasn’t even started. Once it gets going, Kevin, nerdy graduate student of chemistry and hero of the hour, outwits his pursuers in every chapter, with the help of his estranged father, a convenient chum with a fully equipped laboratory at his disposal, and Erica, medical student, champion diver and the girl of his dreams.

The bad guys don’t come any badder. Clayton Tarnwell is an ambitious businessman who doesn’t care what lengths he has to go to in order to build his empire. Lobec is his head of security, AKA psychopathic hitman and general fixer. Bern is just the muscle, but he’s still pretty intimidating. There’s also a wealth of minor characters, all given enough personality to make the entire   adventure seem as if it could really happen.

You kind of know right from the start that the good guys will triumph and the hero will get the girl, because in this kind of fiction they always do. But it’s still a highly entertaining rollercoaster ride, delivered at high speed with a new thrill in every chapter.

And apparently the science part actually works. So one of these days, everyone will have a pair of really cool sunglasses with lenses made of pure diamond.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Boyd Morrison.  After earning a BS in mechanical engineering from Rice University, Boyd worked for NASA and tested Xbox gamers for  Microdsoft.  As a professional actor, he has appeared in commercials and films and in stage plays such as Noises Off, Barefoot in the Park, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Lynne Patrick  has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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