Book Review: The Turpsios Syndrome by John C Waite

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Thriller novels, where the world is threatened by something terrible, be it virus or bomb, and must be stopped by means of a couple very capable but under appreciated characters, rarely involve dolphins. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a fair number of science fiction novels, so the application of dolphins to world-saving efforts is not unheard of (Douglas Adams, anyone?) but a thriller novel is something else entirely. So when I started reading John C Waite’s The Turpsios Syndrome, I was a bit surprised to learn that it involved actual dolphins. Except for that surprising piece of science fiction, this book is a contemporary thriller novel through and through, from the lawman trying to start a new life to the cop who is tired of being seen only as an attractive woman. Oh, and the world-threatening situation.

1. Thoughts on the plot

As far as plot goes, this particular novel did not deviate from the standards of the thriller genre. This made it fairly predictable, but not necessarily in a bad way. It is always good to know that the heros of our story—Hickory and Kevin—will triumph and that we average citizens will not end up dying by terrible means—in this instance, a nuclear bomb. I also think this familiarity helped smooth over some of the unusual nature that the focus on dolphins brought. That particular piece of science could very well be accurate (and, the science did check out as far as I can tell) but it was a little startling. However, when placed in conjunction with the adventure that Hickory and Kevin were on, it became an interesting piece of tech utilised in conjunction with our heros’ smarts and abilities to solve the immediate problem. That is, death. 

2. Thoughts on the main character

This book follows a few main characters, but I am going to name Kevin and Hickory as our two primary main characters. Kevin is a former FBI agent turned National Parks Ranger after the tragic death of his wife. Hickory is an attractive woman who finds herself underestimated in her calling as a cop. These two meet up when Hickory finds a dying dolphin on the beach and calls in Kevin for help. They becoming increasingly entangled in terrible events and each other from there. 

As far as characters go, I would have to say that neither Kevin nor Hickory is terribly spectacular. They follow the mold that has been created for them in many other thriller stories, being both disillusioned and capable, as well as dangerous and slightly-more-attractive-than-normal. This lack of uniqueness made them fit right in to the familiar thriller guidelines that we also get with the plot. However, I do not necessarily think that their manifestation as precisely what you would expect is a bad thing. It fits in with the plot and makes it easy to read, integrating you right into the story without much effort.

3. Favourite part

My favourite part is actually the main characters, Kevin and Hickory. They really did fit right in to the story and made reading it very smooth. There was no disjointedness with these characters; they flowed well and they did not defy my expectations. They were a great pleasure to read.

4. Critique

My least favourite part is also to do with a character, this time the doctor who makes the dolphins so important. Dr. Crabtree is definitely the odd-man-out in this book. He is written to be sensational and shocking in that his emotions for the dolphins borders on creepy (though it never crosses the line). And honestly, it doesn’t fit. If this book were perhaps more psychological than action-oriented, that would fit better. But as it stands, he is a character whose psychological motivations do not line up with the rest of the novel. For someone so smart, he misses a whole lot of extremely obvious points. And he is just a bit too creepy to fit into this novel of greedy villains and righteous villains. He soured me on the whole concept of the dolphins and their scientific benefit; taken alone, that would have been really fascinating. But taken with him, it was just strange. 

Overall, I think this book is a good example of a contemporary thriller. It has all the elements you would expect and enough action to paint a clear picture (explosions included) in your mind. Excepting the piece with the dolphins, which loses its fascination due to their keeper, this piece is a good read for an afternoon when all is rainy and dull. I would rate this book as GOOD.