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From the roots of an ancient witchcraft ... a new terror to destroy. With billions of dollars at stake, every scientist in America is fighting to discover the next Prozac, the latest 'feel good' drug. Edward Armstrong believes he has hit the jackpot. He has isolated a stunningly effective anti-depressant from a bacterial mould first uncovered over two hundred years ago. But t From the roots of an ancient witchcraft ... a new terror to destroy. With billions of dollars at stake, every scientist in America is fighting to discover the next Prozac, the latest 'feel good' drug. Edward Armstrong believes he has hit the jackpot. He has isolated a stunningly effective anti-depressant from a bacterial mould first uncovered over two hundred years ago. But there is more to the drug than anyone could have imagined. When Edward turns violent and the corpses of mutilated animals appear near the laboratory, his girlfriend decides to investigate the truth about this new 'miracle' drug. Before it claims any more innocent lives... From the best-selling doctor whose high-voltage thrillers regularly quicken readers' pulses comes a harrowing tale of greed, abandoned ethics, and ambition run awry in the newest area of medical intervention: cosmetic psychopharmacology. Prozac-like drugs are being prescribed not only for their original purposes but increasingly to alter individual personalities to currently valued norms. With dead-on accuracy and the pre-science of tomorrow's headlines, Robin Cook explores the perilous intersection where fame and unfathomable lucre waylay and seduce the very best and brightest of those sworn to do no harm. When neuroscientist Edward Armstrong begins dating Kimberly Stewart, a descendant of a woman who was hanged as a witch at the time of the Salem witch trials, he takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into a pet theory: that the "devil" in Salem in 1692 had been a hallucinogenic drug inadvertently consumed with mould-tainted grain. In an attempt to prove his theory, Edward grows the mould he believes responsible from samples taken from the Stewart estate. In a brilliant designer-drug transformation, the poison becomes Ultra, the next generation of antidepressants with truly startling therapeutic capabilities.


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From the roots of an ancient witchcraft ... a new terror to destroy. With billions of dollars at stake, every scientist in America is fighting to discover the next Prozac, the latest 'feel good' drug. Edward Armstrong believes he has hit the jackpot. He has isolated a stunningly effective anti-depressant from a bacterial mould first uncovered over two hundred years ago. But t From the roots of an ancient witchcraft ... a new terror to destroy. With billions of dollars at stake, every scientist in America is fighting to discover the next Prozac, the latest 'feel good' drug. Edward Armstrong believes he has hit the jackpot. He has isolated a stunningly effective anti-depressant from a bacterial mould first uncovered over two hundred years ago. But there is more to the drug than anyone could have imagined. When Edward turns violent and the corpses of mutilated animals appear near the laboratory, his girlfriend decides to investigate the truth about this new 'miracle' drug. Before it claims any more innocent lives... From the best-selling doctor whose high-voltage thrillers regularly quicken readers' pulses comes a harrowing tale of greed, abandoned ethics, and ambition run awry in the newest area of medical intervention: cosmetic psychopharmacology. Prozac-like drugs are being prescribed not only for their original purposes but increasingly to alter individual personalities to currently valued norms. With dead-on accuracy and the pre-science of tomorrow's headlines, Robin Cook explores the perilous intersection where fame and unfathomable lucre waylay and seduce the very best and brightest of those sworn to do no harm. When neuroscientist Edward Armstrong begins dating Kimberly Stewart, a descendant of a woman who was hanged as a witch at the time of the Salem witch trials, he takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into a pet theory: that the "devil" in Salem in 1692 had been a hallucinogenic drug inadvertently consumed with mould-tainted grain. In an attempt to prove his theory, Edward grows the mould he believes responsible from samples taken from the Stewart estate. In a brilliant designer-drug transformation, the poison becomes Ultra, the next generation of antidepressants with truly startling therapeutic capabilities.

30 review for Acceptable Risk

  1. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    So I read this story for the first time as a teenager and actually read it during the winter months in Pennsylvania. I loved the atmosphere of this book and it started my interest in the Salem Witch Trials as well. It was great to re-read my copy again and besides a few pacing issues here and there, I thought this was a solid thriller to read for Halloween Bingo 2019. I won't lie though that the medical mystery that Cook gets into is a reach although his proposed solutions to what afflicted the So I read this story for the first time as a teenager and actually read it during the winter months in Pennsylvania. I loved the atmosphere of this book and it started my interest in the Salem Witch Trials as well. It was great to re-read my copy again and besides a few pacing issues here and there, I thought this was a solid thriller to read for Halloween Bingo 2019. I won't lie though that the medical mystery that Cook gets into is a reach although his proposed solutions to what afflicted the girls during the Salem Witch Trials was also brought up via Shirley Jackson when she wrote "The Witchcraft of Salem Village." I don't think that the "theory" is true at all and I kind of just hard shrugged my shoulders at it. I consider this more science fiction than anything and thought this book reminded me a lot of some of Dean Koontz's earlier works. "Acceptable Risk" starts off with a flashback to the Salem Witch Trials and the soon to be hanging of a woman, Elizabeth Stewart, is accused of being a witch.We don't know what evidence the man holding the proceedings is talking about, but Elizabeth is accused of also afflicting children as well. Then the book proceeds to the "present" day with one of Elizabeth's descendants, Kimberly Stewart. Kimberly is a nurse and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kimberly is coming out of a relationship with a dickish resident (sorry he is) Kinnard when she gets set up with by her cousin with a medical researcher, Edward Armstrong. Kimberly and Edward hit it off and start dating. While dealing with that, she is trying to figure out what to do with her family's old home in Salem (where Elizabeth Stewart also lived) and while there, Edward finds a new strain of something that I can't even remember how to spell. Through his research, Edward finds that he can use this strain to turn it into a drug that has no negative side effects, but also causes the user to be more calm and confident. Kimberly is shy and I felt for her. She is overwhelmed in a good way by Edward and quickly gets talked into things she is not sure about. I think that the biggest issue with Kimberly though is halfway through the book she just lets Edward and her cousin walk all over her. I also hard paused at her jumping into something so new with Edward right away and living with the guy. She also agrees to let the medical research company work out of her home and she is starting to have misgivings about the drug. She flounders around a lot and then starts talking to her ex who was the worst from the glimpse of him we get in the beginning of the book. Edward is shy and him getting hooked on the wonder drug was a good look at how prescription drugs can cause people to become too dependent on them and the danger in taking them. His whole personality undergoes a change through the book. We get some secondary characters, but mostly just have Kimberly and Edward's third person POVs. There's also a mystery going around about vandalism in the town of other things that Kimberly finds that get explained by the end of the book. The writing I thought was good. Cook has Kimberly researching Elizabeth's history and the Salem Witch Trials with her trying to find out what evidence the town had to show that Elizabeth was a witch. The flow though as I said at times gets a big bogged down whenever we get into the medical aspect of things with the new designer drug. I don't really get anything that Cook is getting into and thought that it seemed beyond strange that Edward and those he hired would just blithely take drugs that had not been through testing. The setting of the old home that quickly gets overrun by Edward and his colleagues takes a dark turn after a while. Kimberly is having to deal with the fact that the home doesn't feel like hers and that many of the researchers are just haphazardly treating the home. The ending felt gruesome to me and I have to say I wonder at how Cook left things since it seems as if this story would be perfect for a sequel. I also didn't like how things ended for Kimberly since I thought that Cook changed the whole tone of the book up and had to make it into a happily ever after for her. The "It was a dark and stormy night" piece from this book comes to the next to last scene with Kimberly running (from something) in the rain.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. ***SPOILERS*** I like Robin Cook. No really, I do. I just seem to review those of his books that make me angry, rather than those I enjoy. This one has a double-whammy of irritants: not only is it politically motivated and scientifically inaccurate, but it focuses around my field, an area where Dr. Cook seems to have done very little research. The story is a morality tale about the "evils" of psychopharmacology. My degree is in psychology, and as someone who has both studied and benefited from S ***SPOILERS*** I like Robin Cook. No really, I do. I just seem to review those of his books that make me angry, rather than those I enjoy. This one has a double-whammy of irritants: not only is it politically motivated and scientifically inaccurate, but it focuses around my field, an area where Dr. Cook seems to have done very little research. The story is a morality tale about the "evils" of psychopharmacology. My degree is in psychology, and as someone who has both studied and benefited from SSRI antidepressants, I find this kind of prejudice difficult to understand. I'll spare review-readers the lecture. The initial premise of the book is the question of what set off the Salem witch hunts. Dr. Cook offers the interesting hypothesis that it was ergotism, a kind of hallucinatory or seizure disorder caused by the sclerotia (spores) of certain molds; one common one develops on rye, a grain heavily in use by the poorer families of the American British colonies. I will leave the rest of the plot to the reader, except for my objections to the ending. It has been established that hallucinogenic compounds can build up in the brain, resulting in increased sensitivity, so that even a tiny exposure can trigger a hallucination. However, Dr. Cook's idea of the "reptile brain" taking over when the mind enters this altered state is, to my knowledge, neurologically unfounded. Even if this were the case, and here I speak from my own specialty, there is no reason to believe that a person being controlled by the "reptile brain" would become indiscriminately violent and predatory. Not even alligators bite everything that wanders past, and snakes are quite selective as to their targets. If personality is as deeply rooted in the genes as some psychologists believe, the individuals' behaviors would be dependent on their overall psychological nature. My apologies, I lectured in spite of my intentions. This book is a fairly interesting read, provided you can suspend disbelieve and ignore the deus ex machina ending. It would probably be a lot more fun for someone without strong personal feelings on the subject matter.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This book sucked. Thank god I read it out loud with others so we could all laugh at it together. The romance is especially clunky, unrealistic, and awkwardly written, leaving one to wonder if author Robin Cook has ever had a romantic relationship of his own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Very exciting story. A woman who works as a nurse meets a biochemical engineer and they begin dating. She takes him to her family home, dating from the 1600s and tells him that one of her ancestors was hanged as a witch back then. He investigates the grain bins in the cellar and hypothesizes that, due to a shortage of wheat, the community had been making bread from rye flour, which will mutate if kept in a damp place such as a cellar. He takes a small sample and develops a chemical, and by playi Very exciting story. A woman who works as a nurse meets a biochemical engineer and they begin dating. She takes him to her family home, dating from the 1600s and tells him that one of her ancestors was hanged as a witch back then. He investigates the grain bins in the cellar and hypothesizes that, due to a shortage of wheat, the community had been making bread from rye flour, which will mutate if kept in a damp place such as a cellar. He takes a small sample and develops a chemical, and by playing with the DNA, makes a very useful anti-depressant. In order to get it on the market quickly, he forgoes a proper clinical test and begins to test it on himself, as do his co-workers, with disastrous results.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tommye

    This book was really very good. The subject matter was very interesting and, yes, I am going to read about the witch trials because of it and issues raised within it. There was a stern moral to the story, and it serves us well as a reminder of such. And of course, I found it most entertaining throughout!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow, what a mess. Going in, I know that Robin Cook's characters are all socially inept and carry on unreasonable conversations with their loved ones. Fine. I also knew at the beginning that Cook uses a lot of medical gobbledygook terminology that I'm not going to understand. Okay. What I didn't realize is that he would take this conceptually-thrilling work and turn it into a parade of problems, the aforementioned ones not alone on the float. Witchcraft (not a problem on its own) combined with supe Wow, what a mess. Going in, I know that Robin Cook's characters are all socially inept and carry on unreasonable conversations with their loved ones. Fine. I also knew at the beginning that Cook uses a lot of medical gobbledygook terminology that I'm not going to understand. Okay. What I didn't realize is that he would take this conceptually-thrilling work and turn it into a parade of problems, the aforementioned ones not alone on the float. Witchcraft (not a problem on its own) combined with supernatural artwork (losing me) and unethical researchers who just happen to be loved by our main character and turn into werewolves at night... you lost me, Robin Cook. The book reads fast enough that it wasn't a complete waste of time but just barely. Tread carefully on this one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Fleming

    I started out really enjoying this book but I became disappointed by the end. I'd have given it 3 stars othewise. The pros; it was a unique story, and the Salem Witch Trial history connection was very interesting. The cons; predicatable, character development was lacking, ending was rushed and lacked some closure for me (I notice this in many of his books), and finally; I find the characters to be unrealistic in their behavior and attitude toward events unfolding in the story. I started out really enjoying this book but I became disappointed by the end. I'd have given it 3 stars othewise. The pros; it was a unique story, and the Salem Witch Trial history connection was very interesting. The cons; predicatable, character development was lacking, ending was rushed and lacked some closure for me (I notice this in many of his books), and finally; I find the characters to be unrealistic in their behavior and attitude toward events unfolding in the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Beta

    That was a doozy of a story. I was initially ready to vomit at the overly-shy-polite manners the two main characters acted toward each other and ready to delete, then things changed, drastically! The buzzwords that vaguely describe this story: Salem, witches, new drug of the century, venture capitalist, state-of-the-art labs, personality transformations, primal behavior, and cannibalism.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    I haven't read many books by Robin Cook, but this book was different from the other book I read by this author. I found it interesting to read about the Salem Witch Trials. **stop here for spoilers*** I liked the premise of the book-- that the people of Salem who were accused of being witches were just innocent people who had eaten a mold that made them hallucinate, have fits, seizures and deformed fetuses. Her path to discovering all the clues that led to this finding was fun-- through letters I haven't read many books by Robin Cook, but this book was different from the other book I read by this author. I found it interesting to read about the Salem Witch Trials. **stop here for spoilers*** I liked the premise of the book-- that the people of Salem who were accused of being witches were just innocent people who had eaten a mold that made them hallucinate, have fits, seizures and deformed fetuses. Her path to discovering all the clues that led to this finding was fun-- through letters and journals found in the attic of her old house. I thought it was sad that the house had to burn down. I felt that the climax of the story was going to come when the doctors who were testing the drug on themselves (because they believed it to be an 'acceptable risk') went crazy and all started to attack her. It was an exciting ending. The author really left it-- though we don't know what happened. they all ran out into the rain and thunderstorm because the building was on fire. Why didn't they keep attacking her? How fast did the firemen or police get there? Why didn't they just finish her off? It was a little weak. I also didn't really like that Elizabeth had "spoken" to her. It would have been OK if she felt it once or twice- but the author really played it up a bit too much. I also didn't like the part where she felt like she was weak because of things in her home-- she was subservient. I guess I'm glad that she decided to be a new person and be the person she wanted to become. She got back with her old boyfriend-- that was a little weird too. Why would she get along with him now? -- Oh well, it's just a story- a fun read. Don't ask too many questions, right? -- I liked the premise-- that was good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jilly

    I really enjoyed this book because it took modern medicine and science and wove it in to the story of the Salem Witch Trials. It was a fun and exciting read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Nelson

    The plot line was GREAT. The writing.... TERRIBLE

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tabitha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was hesitant to write a review for Acceptable  Risk, by Robin Cook but was egged on a bit by my favorite  book friend Bean (Hey, Bean!) after texting her  a picture of the singularly worst sentence I've  ever read. Yes, worse than Bella naming her baby Renesmee in Twilight! Not only was it the worst sentence  I've ever read, but it was in an unnecessary  chapter. Who adds a chapter  in the last 100 pages to introduce  two new characters  only to do nothing with that storyline? Beyond that the d I was hesitant to write a review for Acceptable  Risk, by Robin Cook but was egged on a bit by my favorite  book friend Bean (Hey, Bean!) after texting her  a picture of the singularly worst sentence I've  ever read. Yes, worse than Bella naming her baby Renesmee in Twilight! Not only was it the worst sentence  I've ever read, but it was in an unnecessary  chapter. Who adds a chapter  in the last 100 pages to introduce  two new characters  only to do nothing with that storyline? Beyond that the dialog  was clunky and awkward. Specifically on the romantic front but really just all around. It was like Cook is a hermit and has never had human interaction . To make it worse our main character goes from dating one a-hole to another as  if the world has no good men and even though she knows it's she is too submissive and ashamed. What women does this author  know? Not one relationshipr or aquantance-ship in this book was believable. The characters  all held jobs that required them to be of high  intelligence, but throwing a large word in clumsy dialog  doesn't  make it any better nor the characters  more believable . Also, I find it extremely hard to believe a SICU nurse would be allowed to take 4 consecutive  weeks of vacation . The above is all unfortunate  because the plot was quite good. Somewhat of a dual line story "present day" (1994) and the Salem Witch trials. I wish there was more POV of the Salem Witch time line but the letters that were found were well done and the plot was interesting  enough to keep me reading. Overall I wouldn't  recommend and will never read this author again. If the plot sounds interesting   read "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," by Katherine Howe instead.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    I liked this one, I really enjoyed the the commingling of historical notions and fiction. Kim and her new beau come across a new psychotropic fungus in her ancestors' house, which dates back to the Salem witch trials (both the house and the fungus, apparently). While she gets more and more engrossed in the family history and its connection to the witch madness, he dreams of a new antidepressant drug and the million of dollars that will come with it. There are some interesting questions lingering I liked this one, I really enjoyed the the commingling of historical notions and fiction. Kim and her new beau come across a new psychotropic fungus in her ancestors' house, which dates back to the Salem witch trials (both the house and the fungus, apparently). While she gets more and more engrossed in the family history and its connection to the witch madness, he dreams of a new antidepressant drug and the million of dollars that will come with it. There are some interesting questions lingering through the story, mainly the pros, cons and ethical implication of changing someone's personality through drugs. Edward, the boyfriend turned mad scientist, screwed it up big. I admire his commitment, though. But I was only afraid for the cat.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thom Swennes

    Kimberly Stewart, a surgical intensive-care nurse at MGH in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is going through a social transition. Her romantic relationship with a surgical resident has been losing steam and it is now is the time to end it. She gets a dinner invitation from her cousin, Stanton Lewis and his wife Candice. Caught between not wanting to go and not wanting to hurt any feelings, the second argument wins. Stanton, always looking for an angle to break into the big league, has a dual motive fo Kimberly Stewart, a surgical intensive-care nurse at MGH in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is going through a social transition. Her romantic relationship with a surgical resident has been losing steam and it is now is the time to end it. She gets a dinner invitation from her cousin, Stanton Lewis and his wife Candice. Caught between not wanting to go and not wanting to hurt any feelings, the second argument wins. Stanton, always looking for an angle to break into the big league, has a dual motive for the dinner invitation. The first is to get his cousin back on a productive social tract and the second reason is to try to develop a liaison with an up and coming researcher, Dr. Edward Armstrong. The dinner goes well and Kim and Edward soon discover that they share many common interests. More importantly, they both feel comfortable in each other’s company. The Stewart family has lived in this area of Massachusetts for centuries. One of Kim’s distant ancestors, Elizabeth Stewart, was rumored to have been hanged for practicing witchcraft during the Salem witch trials of 1692. When new evidence is revealed in old family letters that the cause of the witch panic could be related to mold on rye, neuroscientist Edward embarks on a quest to find a new psychopharmacology application for his discovery. This story has as many turns as a mountain road. What starts as a possible romance, soon turns into a sometimes difficult to follow (much less understand) medical quest, coupled with a trip into history to glean insight into a woman accused of witchcraft; ending in a spine-tingling story of pure horror. In other words, this book hits all the bases and has something for everybody.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kenna

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book ALMOST went on my "books that I just couldn't finish" section. I muddled through hoping that it got better with each chapter but I was disappointed by my optimism by the end. The book starts with a promise of a medical thriller but then branches off in a historical mystery. Both sections of the book could have stood alone on their own but together were a failure. The development of relationships in the book were nonexistent. We go from dinner, to hand holding to the phrase "and she stay This book ALMOST went on my "books that I just couldn't finish" section. I muddled through hoping that it got better with each chapter but I was disappointed by my optimism by the end. The book starts with a promise of a medical thriller but then branches off in a historical mystery. Both sections of the book could have stood alone on their own but together were a failure. The development of relationships in the book were nonexistent. We go from dinner, to hand holding to the phrase "and she stayed the night". We get a few of those before they decide that its a great idea to move in together. One can only assume that they had sex because the book never says nor do they kiss (maybe once, but I cannot for the life of me remember). The medical content of the book was over most readers heads and very dry. There was more medical terminology than anything else in the book. I would have really loved to have seen more of the historical part of the book. As I said before, that could have been a stand alone. We did spend way too much time on a goose chase for "evidence" of the witchcraft. When all was said and done, I was pretty disappointed in her reaction, especially with her profession. The end of the book was what totally threw me for a loop. I was enjoying the true medical aspect of the book and then Dr. Cook asks me to believe that there is a spore that...well, should you read the book, I wont tell you. I will say that I rolled my eyes at the end however. Totally unbelievable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Razvan Banciu

    I've met better books by mr. cook. much better ones... the original idea of developing a drug from an ancient fungus isn't a bad one, the liason with the past looks interesting, but the book, at least the first half, is boring. kim is simply and rather silly, as she does not know what to do and is scared of her shadow. edward and stanton are unilateral, kinnard seems to be a bad boy, which he isn't. the second part is more lively, but the final is grotesque and leaves you the sensation of unfinis I've met better books by mr. cook. much better ones... the original idea of developing a drug from an ancient fungus isn't a bad one, the liason with the past looks interesting, but the book, at least the first half, is boring. kim is simply and rather silly, as she does not know what to do and is scared of her shadow. edward and stanton are unilateral, kinnard seems to be a bad boy, which he isn't. the second part is more lively, but the final is grotesque and leaves you the sensation of unfinished bussines. so, three stars (too many, in fact) only for the narrative part...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    Speculation that mold in the food supply caused hallucinations that prompted the behaviors that led to the Salem Witch Trials is the prompt for Robin Cook's medical thriller. A new drug (similar to Prozac) has been developed based on research related to the Salem Witch Trials, with promising results. The developer's girlfriend, incidentally the descendant of a Salem witch, is concerned that the new drug's side effects are harmful. They aren't. The side effects are ... lethal ... and not just for Speculation that mold in the food supply caused hallucinations that prompted the behaviors that led to the Salem Witch Trials is the prompt for Robin Cook's medical thriller. A new drug (similar to Prozac) has been developed based on research related to the Salem Witch Trials, with promising results. The developer's girlfriend, incidentally the descendant of a Salem witch, is concerned that the new drug's side effects are harmful. They aren't. The side effects are ... lethal ... and not just for the individual taking the drug...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sam Cromartie

    Acceptable Risk by Robin Cook is a medical thriller about a woman descended from a victim of the Salem witch trials. As she investigates the illness that consumed her relative, a doctor discovers a chemical compound in mold from the ancestral home. The chemical elicits startling symptoms that promise a therapeutic breakthrough in treatment of emotional illness, but also threatens horrifying side effects. It leads to an emotional rollercoaster for the protagonists with a frightening conclusion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    An interesting enough premise, although I found the book to be very repititious, to the point where I was eager for it to end. Also, the author is heavy-handed with his opinion on the "evils" of medication. An interesting enough premise, although I found the book to be very repititious, to the point where I was eager for it to end. Also, the author is heavy-handed with his opinion on the "evils" of medication.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Buckeye_reader

    Not your typical Robin Cook book. Kind of slow developing. Storyline wasn't bad, until the last 50 pages - then it got hard to believe. I had read the other series first - I am more of a fan of those than some of his stand alone books. Not your typical Robin Cook book. Kind of slow developing. Storyline wasn't bad, until the last 50 pages - then it got hard to believe. I had read the other series first - I am more of a fan of those than some of his stand alone books.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aunt Penny

    I liked the story about the Salem Witch Trials but the whole "monster" thing is a little much for me. I liked the story about the Salem Witch Trials but the whole "monster" thing is a little much for me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Hilado

    at first I was really hooked in this book. But later, it was just plain boring .

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laural

    This book was just the worst. The worst!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This diatribe against psychotropic drugs, such as Xanax and Prozac, is not one of Dr. Cook’s better efforts. It is long on science and history and short on realistic characters. Cook weaves two stories together: 1) the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 2) the present day (1995) ancestor of the accused witch. The protagonist, Kim Stewart, is an unassertive nurse who has inherited the Salem estates of the family of the suspected witch, Elizabeth Stewart. Kim is just ending a relationship with Dr. Kinn This diatribe against psychotropic drugs, such as Xanax and Prozac, is not one of Dr. Cook’s better efforts. It is long on science and history and short on realistic characters. Cook weaves two stories together: 1) the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 2) the present day (1995) ancestor of the accused witch. The protagonist, Kim Stewart, is an unassertive nurse who has inherited the Salem estates of the family of the suspected witch, Elizabeth Stewart. Kim is just ending a relationship with Dr. Kinnard, who appears like a selfish jerk, when she is introduced to a brilliant but nerdy Harvard professor of neurobiology, Edward Armstrong. Kim and Edward develop a tentative and awkward relationship. Edward sends Kim flowers every day (get real!). They decide to visit the Salem estate where Edward discovers rye mold spores that might have been responsible for Elizabeth being as a witch. Edward then develops this compound into a psychotropic drug with a billion-dollar potential. Kim decides to move into the home in Salem and approves at least $100,000 in renovations with nary a concern. After a short and not especially romantic relationship, Kim unbelievably invites Edward to move in with her. Edward moves into a separate bedroom of the house (who would put up with this?) and establishes a state-of-the-art lab on the property to develop the wonder drug. Edward invites leading researchers of every ethnic stereotype (a Frenchman, a Latina, a Jew, etc.) to help develop the drug. Edward is also not particularly attracted to his beautiful lab assistant with whom he works day and night! Against all scientific protocol, Edward and his team decide to test the drug, Ultra, on themselves in order to speed up FDA approval. While Ultra has wonderful benefits, it comes with terrible side effects. The finale sounds like something out of Night of the Zombies in a Lightening Storm. As a result of Ultra’s mind-altering properties, Edward’s team burns down a mansion on the property, most team members are burnt alive and Edward becomes terribly disfigured. Yet rather than spending his remaining days in jail, Edward is allowed to continue developing drugs. And to top it off, Kim goes back to jerk Kinnard, and after a short time, invites him to move in with her. Maybe Robin Cook should stop taking these drugs and get a grip on reality.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chana

    I didn't like or trust Edward from the moment I met him. Every one of his actions made him seem creepy (flowers every day?) and like a man with a hidden agenda. I assumed he had researched Kim but it seems he was an opportunist. How he went from nerdy scientist/teacher to this irresponsible user/loser, I don't know. One taste of the drug and his mind snapped? (Anybody remember the episode of Taxi where Jim takes his first hit of marijuana?) As soon as Edward decides to make himself a casual test I didn't like or trust Edward from the moment I met him. Every one of his actions made him seem creepy (flowers every day?) and like a man with a hidden agenda. I assumed he had researched Kim but it seems he was an opportunist. How he went from nerdy scientist/teacher to this irresponsible user/loser, I don't know. One taste of the drug and his mind snapped? (Anybody remember the episode of Taxi where Jim takes his first hit of marijuana?) As soon as Edward decides to make himself a casual test subject of an untested and potentially dangerous substance, I thought, this book is stupid. I don't know the world of medical research but I found the idea appalling and would have thought his colleague would have reported him forthwith. Somebody say something! Mad scientist on the loose! Then being given millions to create a lab and hire researchers on the idea that a new miracle drug could potentially be created, without research to back it up? On the force of somebody's say so? even a smart somebody?? That doesn't really happen, does it? Eventually we end up with scenes from teenage horror movies, silly yet frightening. The book is based on the real theory that the accusing girls in the Salem Witch Trials, that their hallucinations and convulsions were caused by a fungus in the rye which was commonly used for baking bread. The spring had been very wet and the area was swampy leading to much fungal growth. Good points about the book? It reads quickly and is entertaining in a "boo!" sort of way.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    I was encouraged by a friend to read this because of the interesting story, and it is that. I just wish that the execution had been a bit better. I was enjoying it enough that I'd have given it a fourth star, right up until the final few chapters. The ending to the thriller/horror story felt annoyingly rushed, and the interactions between Kim and Kinnard kept taking too many weird turns, after the very clear reasons for the way things had gone at the start of the story. Also, Edward was just too I was encouraged by a friend to read this because of the interesting story, and it is that. I just wish that the execution had been a bit better. I was enjoying it enough that I'd have given it a fourth star, right up until the final few chapters. The ending to the thriller/horror story felt annoyingly rushed, and the interactions between Kim and Kinnard kept taking too many weird turns, after the very clear reasons for the way things had gone at the start of the story. Also, Edward was just too much of a mad scientist for my tastes, doing things that were clearly unscientific for reasons that didn't match his character as originally shown. If the author was trying to show that he had a repressed aggressive side, it wasn't convincing. Even then, the reactions of the other members of the research team were a little too weird. I could see them agreeing to a controlled study of the compound, but not done as it was. These were trained scientists, and for ALL of them to ignore even basic rules of science was just too strange. Still, the overall story was fascinating, as the readers were forced to consider the question of just how much of history has been lost or altered over time. I did, however, find the arguments over the "conclusive" evidence unconvincing, because if Kim's theories were correct, there should have been other such cases. Miscarriages, stillborn or other "unusual" childbirths were not so uncommon as to explain that part of the story, either.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Schmidt

    The story starts in February of 1692 when Mercy Griggs pays a visit to Elizabeth Stewart, whose husband Ronald is away designing a frigate type ship for his merchant business. Elizabeth is a strong woman and has recommended the use of rye (the poor man’s grain) in bread making to the tiny village near Salem. As such she has been giving away loaves as well as eating it herself. When one of her children’s paymates has a fit, things progress and Elizabeth is tried and convicted of witchcraft. Leapin The story starts in February of 1692 when Mercy Griggs pays a visit to Elizabeth Stewart, whose husband Ronald is away designing a frigate type ship for his merchant business. Elizabeth is a strong woman and has recommended the use of rye (the poor man’s grain) in bread making to the tiny village near Salem. As such she has been giving away loaves as well as eating it herself. When one of her children’s paymates has a fit, things progress and Elizabeth is tried and convicted of witchcraft. Leaping forward to July of 1994, we are introduced to Kimberly Stewart. She, in turn, is introduced to Edward Armstrong, a bioneuroscientist, who Kim’s cousin Stanton Lewis hopes to recruit for his own business dealings. Edward is as fascinated in discovering about Kim’s witch craft ancestors as Kim’s famiy is determined to keep their connection to that period hidden. Kim, however, delves into the search for her ancestor and, when they make an interesting find on the property, Kim offers one of the buildings on her huge property to Edward to research it. With Stanton’s financial backing, he sets up the lab, recruits the best and brights, and – begins experimenting on himself! It is a scary view at how far some researchers and their backers will go to find “the” drug that will result in multiple millions in sales.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christine Kayser

    This book was not great. It was billed as a medical thriller in the style of Tess Gerritsen, who I love. Just because something has scientists in it and medical mentions (a main character that's a nurse, another that's a chemist developing a new drug) doesn't make it a medical thriller. The characters were frustratingly unlikeable and the plot points were heavy handed. My final criticism is that this person wanted to add a lot of details about Boston, but clearly can't be a local - a main charac This book was not great. It was billed as a medical thriller in the style of Tess Gerritsen, who I love. Just because something has scientists in it and medical mentions (a main character that's a nurse, another that's a chemist developing a new drug) doesn't make it a medical thriller. The characters were frustratingly unlikeable and the plot points were heavy handed. My final criticism is that this person wanted to add a lot of details about Boston, but clearly can't be a local - a main character forgets to book her moving truck for Sept. 1 and still manages to get one a few days before. And he calls the Public Garden the Boston Garden. C'mon. If you're going to get so specific with street names and local references, at least get what it's actually like to live here. The only positive effect of the book is that it renewed my interest in the Salem Witch Trials. I lived in Salem for several years and read a lot about it, and this book's references to it made me want to revisit the history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nancyann

    This was a 25 years later reread during our covid-19 pandemic. Acceptable Risk has an interesting premise. Is it possible to connect the Salem witch accusations to a fungus found in rye? Our heroine Kim just so happens to own land outside of Salem with several buildings that are suited to her boyfriend's dreams of developing a new pharmaceutical drug using the very same Salem fungus from three hundred years ago. Far fetched? Sure, but still an interesting idea. But the story soon went off the ra This was a 25 years later reread during our covid-19 pandemic. Acceptable Risk has an interesting premise. Is it possible to connect the Salem witch accusations to a fungus found in rye? Our heroine Kim just so happens to own land outside of Salem with several buildings that are suited to her boyfriend's dreams of developing a new pharmaceutical drug using the very same Salem fungus from three hundred years ago. Far fetched? Sure, but still an interesting idea. But the story soon went off the rails with ludicrous behavior from the reputable scientists that became downright laughable. One of the last chapters describing a ridiculous hunt by said scientists almost put the novel in a 1 star category. In fairness to author Cook it was clear to see that he did impressive research concerning the town of Salem and balanced well the see-sawing of chapters from the late 1600s to the 1990's modern landmarks of Boston, Cambridge, and Harvard. As the world currently races for a vaccine against covid-19 perhaps there are warnings to be found in Acceptable Risk.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maetta

    There were several things that bothered me in this book. Kim, an ICU nurse, had just gotten out of a long term relationship with an arrogant surgeon, Kinnard. She and her brother had inherited family property in Salem. After a short match making meeting to another doctor but a researcher, Edward, she quickly falls for him and before they know it are living together. This did not feel right from the get go and Kim soon feels like she’s being walked over since Edward is just as arrogant if not mor There were several things that bothered me in this book. Kim, an ICU nurse, had just gotten out of a long term relationship with an arrogant surgeon, Kinnard. She and her brother had inherited family property in Salem. After a short match making meeting to another doctor but a researcher, Edward, she quickly falls for him and before they know it are living together. This did not feel right from the get go and Kim soon feels like she’s being walked over since Edward is just as arrogant if not more than Kinnard. The thing that gets in the way of her realizing her mistake is the joint search to discover information about Elizabeth Stewart, an ancestor that was hung for witchcraft. Kim is wrapped up in the search while Edward is wrapped up in pharmacological implications of what caused the “fits” which led to the witchcraft trials. The plot is a good one but the relationships are written stiffly. Much too much introspection.

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