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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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07/23/2004 Archived Entry: "Book review: "Deficiency""

By Andrew Neiderman
This edition: Mass Market Paperback
Pub. Date: 08/2004
ISBN: 0743483219
List Price: $7.99

Reviewed by Jessica Groper

This review contains details of plot and character; please proceed at your own risk. Thank you.

In 1997, Andrew Neiderman hit the jackpot when his book The Devil's Advocate was made into a movie starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. His newest book is called Deficiency, and I couldn't help thinking that Neiderman wrote this book with the hopes that it would also make the transition from page to screen. Deficiency tells the story of a young doctor, Terri, who finds herself in the middle of a mysterious rash of unexplainable deaths. Only just established in her own practice, Terri finds herself trying to treat patients who are dying of severe vitamin deficiencies. A young woman who was healthy and active in the morning shows up in the E.R. with an extreme case of scurvy that turns fatal before her complete lack of vitamin C can be corrected. Terri is confused and alarmed as similar deaths occur in her small upstate New York town. With no medical explanation for how these deaths could have been caused, Terri can't help questioning her own skills as a doctor. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of these attacks settles into the sleepy town to enjoy the easy pickings. His victims are all women that he lured with his extraordinary good looks and his almost hypnotic charm. The manner in which this character sucks the life out of his victims is never completely explained, but it involves supernatural sex. After each supernatural sexual encounter, the unnamed character revels in his godlike appearance and strength. But as his periods of weakness grow closer together and more frequent, he begins to question his existence. He does not know where he comes from or how he came to be. He has trouble remembering events in the recent past and yet, a nagging feeling tells him that he is being pursued and must continue moving. It turns out one of his pursuers is the FBI, and as Terri gets drawn further into the case she learns about the mystery man in her community. Is he responsible for these deaths? How does he commit them? Is he schizophrenic; alternately committing the crimes and then trying to solve them?

This book could easily find its way into your local Cineplex, so much about it is visual. The chiseled perfection of the killer's face and physique, the passionate sex scenes that turn into murders are very Basic Instinct, and scenes late into the book involve mistaken identity and the confusion of two identical men (hint: there's cloning involved). One climactic scene involves a man and his clone confronting each other and then fighting to the death. This is a moment that has little to no impact on the page since the readers has to imagine the mirror images savagely attacking and clinging to each other. But, it could be made very dramatic on screen where the audience wouldn't be able to tell which man survived until an essential clue was revealed. Unfortunately, the story told in this book is not very compelling. There's sex, murder, mystery, covert government funding of bad science, danger, and romance; but none of it really grabs your attention. Terri's lawyer fiancÚ is so unsympathetic that I kept hoping the murderer would change his modus operandi and kill a man for once. Terri's medical knowledge allows Neiderman to display all the research he did on diseases caused by medical deficiencies; but the passages detailing these diseases and their cures are way too long and unnecessary. But, considering the pomp with which this book is being presented to the world, the publishers went so far as to offer me an interview with Neiderman, there are definitely hopes riding on this book. And who knows, maybe what didn't make a good book will make a good movie. It just seems a shame that Neiderman couldn't skip the middle step and go straight to writing screenplays.

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