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Hooked: A Thriller About Love and Other Addictions    by Matt Richtel order for
by Matt Richtel
Order:  USA  Can
Twelve, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Matt Richtel's hero, San Francisco medical journalist Nat Idle, is the kind of self-deprecating hero I enjoy most. Though he has a medical degree, he chose to write about public health issues instead of doing his residency. Nat lost the love of his life suddenly in a drowning accident four years before the story begins. He still grieves for Annie Kindle, who worked for her father's venture capital investment firm (her dad called her his Smiling Assassin). Flashbacks of Nat and Annie's time together are threaded through the story.

The novel opens on Nat sitting reading in a café. A blonde leaves a note on his table. He follows her out of the restaurant, which blows up as she drives away. The odd thing is that the note is in Annie's handwriting. Nat awakens to find a cop, Danny Weller, helping him. The journalist has not been popular with the SFPD since uncovering an episode of police brutality, and the Lieutenant in charge of the bombing investigation is the brother of the officer involved. With occasional help from his colorful friends, a spiritual healer and a math wizard, Nat tries to understand what happened.

He contacts waitress (and performance artist) Erin Coultran, who also survived the explosion. She talks about her friend Andy, who began to behave very strangely after getting close to one of the café victims, and killed himself two weeks before the bombing. Andy's computer yields information that leads to a research company named Strawberry Labs. An arsonist strikes repeatedly. Very few people in Nat's world are who they seem to be, and his mental confusion is worsened by grinding headaches and symptoms similar to those suffered by Andy before his death. Time is running out and Nat has no one to trust.

I have to say that I enjoyed the first half of this thriller much more than the last - the hero is fun to spend time with and the writing witty, but the technology that drives the denouement simply lacks credibility for me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Hooked enough to look forward to its author's next offering.

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