Fiona Erskine; ISBN: 9781786077578; Point Blank; an imprint of Oneworld; 2020, £14.99
The Chemical Reaction is the second novel in the Jaq Silver series written by chemical engineer Fiona Erskine.
Jaq Silver is a chemical engineer and explosives expert, and in the previous book, The Chemical Detective, she got embroiled in a conspiracy theory that led her to the site of the Chernobyl disaster. Now trying to evade plans that her nemesis has for her, she begrudgingly takes a job involving a joint venture in China. However, when the factory she’s supposed to be looking at disappears and a former student goes missing, a simple trip turns out to be more that she was bargaining for.
As with the first book, Silver uses her engineering knowledge to solve the problems she faces. There is a nice mix of science and engineering peppered throughout the book, and the importance of the clean energy transition is touched on several times.
In Erskine’s first book, Silver’s adversaries felt a little over the top, however the character development is vastly improved in The Chemical Reaction. The antagonists come across as more realistic and this makes the story flow much better. The book keeps the reader guessing throughout – what do art thefts have to do with a missing factory? – and the fast pace of the thriller makes it difficult to put down. The various threads of the mystery all become woven together in an unexpected way at the end, at the site of another past disaster.
Silver’s attempts to settle down in the life of an ordinary chemical engineer will still have to wait though, as the next two books will take her on adventures to Brazil and India.
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