NONDISCLOSURE:  A MEDICAL THRILLER

Professor Brad Parker is comfortable as the science department chairman and research scientist at the prestigious Boston Technological Institute. That is, until his department is missing $20,000, a female student is sexually assaulted and the suspect is a respected fellow professor. Suddenly, Brad’s cushy academic life is going down the drain.

“Nondisclosure” is one of this year’s best mysteries by a Maine writer. Author Geoffrey M. Cooper lives in Ogunquit and is a retired scientist and medicine academic. This is his second novel after the award-winning “The Prize.” Here, Cooper tackles the thorny issues of sexual misconduct among staff and students at colleges and universities, as well as the cutthroat academic jealousies of rival professors and the cover-up tactics of schools to avoid costly scandals and lawsuits.

This is a gritty mystery, well-crafted with a complex, intriguing plot, tense suspense, vivid action and wholly believable characters. And, sadly, the events depicted here really do happen in real life.

The Dean orders Brad to partner with the university’s top police detective, Karen Richmond, a hot-shot, smart, tough investigator, to nail the suspect quickly — everyone is worried about unfavorable media attention jeopardizing important research and essential funding. They’ve already decided the accused is guilty, so close the case.

However, lies, misdirection, loose ends and a surprising lack of hard evidence puzzle Brad and Karen. When the sexual assault victim is later brutally murdered and the case of the missing $20,000 begins to merge, Brad and Karen realize they are now stuck in the middle of a widespread and deadly conspiracy. They are threatened, assaulted and framed as intimidation to drop the investigation.

They finally understand what a university’s “nondisclosure” document really means, but they may be killed before anyone can help. This mystery is an eye-opening page-turner.

 

THE ACADIA FILES:  BOOK TWO, AUTUMN SCIENCE

Any kid who thinks the four seasons are salt, pepper, mustard and ketchup should read “The Acadia Files,” which are fun and educational science books for 9- to 12-year-old kids.

Maine author Katie Coppens is a middle-school science teacher who has created an excellent four-book series about science for kids (and adults, too) oriented around the four real seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. This is the second book in the series, “Autumn Science,” following “Summer Science” earlier this year.

Coppens’ main character is 10-year-old Acadia, a smart, curious young girl fascinated with the scientific world and how things are created, how they work and why. In the first book, she explored how sand is made, how genes and tides work and how the scientific method is used. Now, in “Autumn Science,” she answers other interesting scientific questions.

Acadia wonders how and why leaves change color in the fall, discovering the miracles of chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Then, in the chapter “Drinking Dinosaur Pee,” she learns about the earth’s remarkable “water cycle.”

While watching a Red Sox-Dodgers baseball game on TV, Acadia and her father discuss time: How can she watch a baseball at 9 p.m. in Maine and people in California can watch the same game at 6 p.m.? The creation of time zones is clearly and cleverly explained by her father.

In “The Germ Wars,” Acadia learns about the human body’s immune system using an experiment (the scientific method) to illustrate the importance of hand-washing.  Learn why frogs breathe through their skin, why the International Date Line isn’t a straight line, and what U.S. state does not observe Daylight Saving Time. For more fun science, see “How a Fly Walks Upside Down” by Martin Goldwyn (Citadel Press, 1979).

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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