Venom by Joan Brady

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Venom by Joan Brady

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Newly released from prison, David Marion has a guardian angel – lucky for him otherwise the hitman on his doorstep might have got his job done. Helen Freyl is a bright girl – and not just because she is a physicist – because she has just figured out that her employer's motives are not quite as pure as they had led her to believe. Venom brings David and Helen together in an explosive fight for their lives in this gripping, page-turning new novel from Joan Brady.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-0743267908

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David Marion isn't used to finding hitmen standing at his front door, though you wouldn't be able to tell that such a thing might be true, given the speed and competency with which Marion dispatches said hitman and then disappears, seemingly, off the face of the Earth.

Dr. Helen Freyl is a physicist working for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. She is also, up until his disappearance, David Marion's sometime lover and is grief-stricken to the point of distraction by his sudden absence from her life, as she believes him to be dead.

By contrast and yet one more of her many bow strings, Dr. Freyl is also the owner of a very rare colony of bees. Her attention to them is no more than passing – as we have discovered, Helen's obsessions lie elsewhere - but when the caretaker of these bees receives a very unusual offer for his land to include the hives, Helen's interest is naturally piqued.

Being wealthy, from a well-known 'old money' family and being suitably bored, Helen is persuaded, by her grandmother, Becky – who definitely does not fulfill the brief for 'harmless old biddy' - to accept a secondment to London. Very early into her tenure, Helen discovers that the company is actually very close to finding a cure for radiation poisoning and that this possible cure could potentially be priceless. And we all know how pricelessness attracts both the salubrious and the insalubrious in not such equal measure, don't we?

Helen quickly discovers that everything she understood to be the truth is somehow tainted by either small but often overwhelmingly great, lies but her disbelief at the sudden change of events must be suspended for now, as Helen is in mortal danger because of what she has learned.

It's like the song says,

Love and marriage,
Love and marriage;
go together like
human tragedy and corporate greed

And so Helen must now fight for her very life against a milieu of industrial espionage and shocking betrayal so that she does not literally become yet one more corporate casualty.

Joan Brady was the first ever winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year award for her rather excellent and critically acclaimed Theory of War. It appears Joan wrote Venom, follow up to Bleedout, under some rather trying circumstances (pre and post heart surgery) and the newly septuagenarian author's sixth novel is probably the better for it, or so she says in a recent newspaper article! Brava! I struggle to put the kettle on when I have a cold! Now, whilst I have nothing to compare it with – I am a Brady-Virgin – I'd be inclined to take her word for it because although Venom took a little while to get going (about one whole third of the book, which seemed like a lot at the time), once the story had cleared the safety car, it shot skywards at a pace not dissimilar to one of those nosebleed rides at Alton Towers.

I think the key lies with Brady's characters as they are intensely likeable. Take David Marion – damaged, slightly feral, occasionally deadly but capable of great compassion and love; Helen Freyl – often spoiled, a tad too minxy for her own good but surprisingly resourceful and Grandma Becky – a butter-would-not-melt-in-this-little-old-lady's-mouth, hard-talking, butt-kicking, matriarch who does not take anyone's answer for anything, whether it's yes or no! It is this trait in her characters – you know, the one that makes you say you wicked old lady out loud whilst you are reading – that binds you to the story and actually it was this that kept me going through the slow burn of the first third of the story. And I'm glad of it too. Venom is a very, very good story – that slight edge of believability surrounding the cure for radiation poisoning (like with Jurassic Park – who knows what science can make possible that we have not even thought about yet?) keeps you wanting more right up to the last page.

Venom is a roaringly good read. The only reason it got four Bookbag stars and not five is purely for the slow start because, to be honest, I think it delivers on every other level. In all conscience, I can't not recommend it to you!

If you think this book might appeal, and fancy a look at something in the same 'industrial espionage crime thriller' vein, you should also perhaps take a look at Vanished by Joseph Finder. If your interest has been piqued as to what science might make possible in the future (the old science fiction/science fact argument about what you saw in Star Trek in 1960 being real by 2060) and you fancy a meander into the Sci-Fi shelves, then maybe you should look at Hybrids by David Thorpe and maybe Mothstorm by Philip Reeve and David Wyatt – I realise that both of these recommendations come under the Teen readers category, but I don't think their audience is limited, as both books are excellent on their own merits.

Lastly, we at Bookbag would like to extend our thanks to the kind ladies and gentlemen at Simon and Schuster for sending this copy to us for review.

Buy Venom by Joan Brady at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Venom by Joan Brady at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Venom by Joan Brady at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Venom by Joan Brady at Amazon.com.


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