I just could not resist a thriller that is billed to have a religious aspect to it so I was looking forward to “Near Death” by Glenn Cooper. I enjoyed my last foray into Cooper’s works so I was hoping to find another enjoyable read in this novel.
There is a new serial killer in the Boston area and Cyrus O’Malley is becoming obsessed with tracking the killer down. Each of the victims has been strangled and had a small hole drilled into their heads. It is that small hole that seems to be mocking Cyrus. Alex Weller had a near death experience when he was a child and has become obsessed with finding a way to relive the event. To that end, he hosts a small group of people who meet regularly to discuss near death experiences and try to find a way to relive the experiences. Unbeknownst to the group, Weller has developed a sinister plot that just may make this possible. He has been developing a new drug, which becomes known as Bliss, that can replicate the experience and he is ready to unleash the drug upon the world.
With Bliss running rampant throughout the world, Weller has become a kind of new age savior for the masses as the father of the wonder drug. This, however, was only the first part of the plan he has developed for the world. Weller starts a website for his devotees and stars a clock that ticks away the seconds until a zero hour in which he plans on releasing what her terms “Ultimate Bliss.” Cyrus is convinced that there is a connection between the murders and the drug and the world is on the verge of total economic collapse as more people become hooked on bliss and less concerned about other worldly concerns. Weller is making his move to become a new messiah no matter the cost and Cyrus is convinced that he must be stopped. The only question left is how to stop him and save the world.
“Near Death” is a fairly complex thriller but it is one that is easy to slip into. I had little trouble in finding the rhythm of the story and was able to understand the characters and concepts even though there is more science to the novel than there is in most thrillers. Cooper does a good job of explaining enough of the science so that the reader does not get confused or feel left out of the story but not too much so that the story bogs down. He achieves an almost near perfect combination of medical and action thriller to keep the story moving yet substantial. There is some religion thrown in the mix, although not of any particular denomination, but that is to be expected when reading a novel that deals with near death experiences. There are several complex subjects in the novel and Cooper balances them with a deft hand that is often missing in a novel of this sort.
I feel like I am doing a poor job of reviewing this novel but it really is a very good book and the story is a little complex to try to sum up in a couple paragraphs. The one drawback to the novel that kept it from achieving the level of a great thriller is that Cyrus is just too much of a vanilla character. He is exactly what one would expect of a federal agent and was fairly bland throughout much of the story (although this changed significantly toward the end of the novel but to reveal more would be spoiling the novel). Weller, however, is a very strong character that is even a little bit likable in an insane way even though he is the villain of the story. I think that is what makes the story so strong. It is easy to see how bliss could lead people astray and causes a bit of conflict within the readers mind. In all, this is one of the better thriller I have read in a while and I would recommend it for fans of the genre, especially those who enjoy a little substance with their entertainment.
I would like to thank Lascaux Media and NetGalley for this review copy. “Near Death” is available now.