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Brain TrustReview - Brain Trust
A Body of Evidence Thriller Starring Jenna Blake
by Christopher Golden
Pocket Books, 2001
Review by Su Terry
May 4th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 18)

Brain Trust by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala is an action packed suspense filled tale about murder, government conspiracies, and forensic science. It is a fast paced tale about what happens when an American college student who also happens to be a medical examiner’s assistant goes on Spring Break and finds herself deep in murder and mayhem in sunny Florida.  

Brain Trust is on Captiva Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  College sophmores - Jenna Blake and Yoshiko Kitsuta, her roommate – are off to Florida for Spring Break. their major concerns are a little bit of sun, fun, and perhaps a bit of R&R, but it seems where ever, Jenna goes, death and mystery are bound to follow. While exploring the joys of jet skis, a fellow renter’s vehicle sudden explodes. Jenna familiarity and comfort around dead bodies, naturally placed her in-charge of the corpse. It was then that she notices that the corpse had a very peculiar growth in its chest cavity. This abnormality peaks Jenna’s curiosity. When the local Medical Examiner denies the presence of any growth, Jenna is determined to find out why he lied and what the growth was. Her investigation arouses the interest of two very shady FBI agents.

Nancy Drew look out! Jenna Blake is on the case. With the current interest in forensics, both on television and in novels, the Jenna Blake series offers a young adult option that is high in interest and low in technical language and “gross” factors. Jenna is curious, well connected, obviously very bright, but otherwise a typical college student. She worries about dating, grades, clothing, and food. She even has the unenviable job of transcribing autopsy tapes of a medical examiner. Jenna’s quick mind, however, puts together facts that help her solve murders that some how seem to baffle the ME and the police. While this plot structure is not terribly believable, it makes for a fun and interesting young adult series.

Jenna, her friends, and this novel’s enemies are all very stereotypical. Jenna, for all her intelligence for solving crimes, never seems to see the “bad guys” coming. Following her logic for solving the crimes is clear and quite understandable. There are no last minute secret facts that are pulled out in the last chapter making solving the crime by the reader impossible. Jenna is also strategically surrounded by politically correctness.  She has an oriental roommate, a wheelchair bound ME boss, and even a single mom. As female mystery solvers go, she is also completely fearless while her friends and colleagues seem to freeze in the face of danger. Ironically, she spends her time grappling with issues that most teens grapple with, i.e., should she wear a skimpy bikini or should Yoshiko date while separated from her steady boyfriend. Jenna is even angered by being called a “teenager” and worries about balancing fun in the sun with study time. In this volume, Brain Trust, the evil FBI agents are typically smarmy. The Florida ME, is weak and weaselly. The victims are all a bit too trusting. But one must remember that this series is for enjoyment and not necessarily striving for any awards in realism or landing a place in literary history. This novel is just what it is, a good old light-hearted mystery better known as a “popcorn novel”.

Christopher Golden is a voracious writer. He has written or co-written a great many books based on the popular TV series, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. He is the editor of the Bram Stoker Award-winning book of criticism, CUT!: Horror Writers on Horror Film (1992), Sophomore Slumps: Disastrous Second Movies, Albums, Singles, Books, and Other Stuff (1995), The Watcher's Guide: The Official Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Companion [w/Nancy Holder] (1998), The Sunnydale High Yearbook [w/Nancy Holder] (1999), The Stephen King Universe [w/Stanley Wiater] (2000), and The Monster Book [w/Stephen Bissette and Thomas Sniegoski] (2000). Golden's comic book work includes Wolverine/Punisher, The Crow, and Spider-Man. Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.

Rick Hautala is billed as “the other horror writer from Maine.” He has published more than twenty books, including the bestseller Night Stone (1986), Little Brothers (1987), Winter Wake (1989), Cold Whisper (1991), Twilight Time (1994), Impulse (1996), Poltergeist: The Legacy: the Hidden Saint (1999), and The Mountain King (1996/2001) and a short story collection, Bedbugs (1999). He has co-written five screenplays with William Relling. Hautala also writes under a pseudonym, A.J. Matthews, The White Room (2001). Hautala received his B.A. and M.A. in English literature from the University of Maine at Orono. He is married with three sons and lives in southern Maine.

There are currently eight books in the Body of Evidence series. These include Body Bags (1999), Thief of Hearts (1999), Soul Survivor (1999), Meets the Eye (2000), Head Games (2000), Skin Deep (2000), Burning Bones (2000) and Brain Trust (2001).  Thief of Hearts and Soul Survivor are currently being developed for television.   

Brain Trust is a fun read. It is action packed yet very light. It is a great beach book. It is a book that can be enjoyed by pre-teens and adults alike. I will admit I bought a few to toss into my beach bag. If the series makes it to TV, I believe the series will become quite popular. Not great fiction, but very enjoyable. I recommend the series for pre-teen through adults.

 

© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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