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The Genesis Project, headed by Ryan and Jess McCloud, is researching a fascinating thesis: that violence is a virus, that evil is genetically based, and that neurology can prove what psychology only suggests. A billionaire who heads the world's largest media and technology empire believes the McClouds are onto something with enormous potential value and agrees to underwrite their project, which starts with brain scans of death row inmates and progresses to war zones and killing fields all over the world.

When pregnant Jess is kidnapped by a religious leader, who fears that sciencewill destroy his faith-based empire, the action ratchets up several levels,skipping over some of the hard science that keeps this would-be thriller miredin detail much of the time. Author Daniel Hecht posits as good a raisond'être for the root causes of violence as any other suspense novelist;it's an intriguing idea, well-worked out in the plot. And Jess McCloud, vainlytrying to reconcile her decidedly unscientific faith with scientific empiricism,is an interestingly complex character. Unfortunately, she's missing for much ofthe novel, and her husband, whose efforts to retrace her research in order tofind her, is a much less fascinating hero. But that won't stop fans of Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, et al. for sticking with Hecht to the last page. —Jane Adams

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