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Raising Abel    by W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear order for
Raising Abel
by W. Michael Gear
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Abel is a very special little boy, so special that someone will do anything to eliminate not only the child, but all traces of his existence, from human knowledge. Four-year-old Abel (who is odd in appearance and has a speech impediment) was born to anthropologists Scott Ferris and Amanda Alexander, and soon afterwards put up for adoption. Suddenly, a string of arson/murders begins, with all of the victims anthropologists, working on a project somehow connected to Abel.

Scott's younger sister, paleoanthropologist Veronica Tremain, her wild teenage years behind her, has just returned from a Hawaii vacation to celebrate her Ph. D. graduation, when she is informed of her brother's torture and murder. An informant told FBI Special Agent Joe Hanson that Billy Barnes Brown ('the biggest thing on religious TV' with connections in very high places) and his international 'Christian Creationist Crusade' were responsible.

Before he died, Scott Ferris was able to leave Ronnie a message that 'Cain's raised Abel' and to warn his colleague Bryce Johnson (who had been kept in the dark about the nature of the project) to flee. Their trajectories intersect with that of Abel and his adopted mother, and also of assassins with an uncanny ability to keep finding them. Bryce, Ronnie and the child end up in a series of near brushes with death. The FBI get involved, but are hindered by political agendas.

It's a rollercoaster thriller with the authors' usual great dialogue and strong characters (I especially enjoy their women protagonists). Raising Abel is built around a highly controversial topic, that of ''creating' a living human being from bits and pieces of DNA'. An excellent argument is made for the importance of anthropology in establishing human origins, to counter groups who consider themselves somehow chosen and other human beings lesser.

Small Abel's differences are brought out very nicely, though occasionally his musings seem much too advanced for any four-year-old. That aside, Raising Abel is an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a deep vein of mystery and romance and a highly satisfactory conclusion - the murdered anthropologists succeeded in rewriting the ending of a very cold case indeed; I only wish it were real.

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