In Darden North's FRESH FROZEN, human reproductive tissue becomes a murderous commodity. FRESH FROZEN (hardcover, October 2008) is the third thriller by award-winning author and practicing physician Darden North.
ISBN: (10) 0-9771126-3-2
Price: $26.95 Retail 312 Pages Hardcover, Color Foil Jacket
In this third medical thriller by award-winning author and practicing physician Darden North, human reproductive tissue becomes a fatal commodity.
In Fresh Frozen, a young policeman and his tormented wife fail miserably to produce a family, finding themselves outcasts in the renewed baby boom sweeping the United States. However, there is one last hope for them: a catalogue of human embryo and egg donors peddled by a woman whose standards are easily dismissed for the right price.
Pursuing their futile attempts to become parents has nearly cost the wife her life and pushed the couple to the brink of bankruptcy. This purportedly last chance for Wesley and Carrie Sarbeck to satisfy their place as parents in Middle America unknowingly tosses them in the midst of a grisly murder plot, the world of Hollywood celebrities, and a heist of freshly frozen human embryos.
The lives of Sarbeck, international superstar Allyn Saxton, and southern socialite Cheryl Choice unwittingly collide at the Van Deman Institute, a state-of-the-art infertility treatment center housed in what was once a decaying building complex just north of Jackson, Mississippi. While Tinker Murtagh, an Internet voyeur and thief conducts his surveillance, each of the three women has her own reason for entering the Institute.
However, as a result of subjecting herself to a concoction of hormones and surgical procedures, one of the three is gruesomely murdered in an intriguing spiral of human greed, mental anguish, and medical science.
Throughout the novel’s fast-paced suspense, North reveals how medical ethics can easily be challenged as he allows even comical, endearing characters to meet tragedy -- tragedy necessary to preserve the deadly secrets of the Van Deman Institute of Reproductive Technology.
ISBN: 0-9771126-3-2 978-0-9771126-3-0
In any case, tomorrow would be the day. His wife’s body was
ready. Under Dr. Henry Van Deman’s direction, the beautiful
blonde donor had taken injections and pills to ovulate this time
on schedule, producing several eggs that easily accepted Wesley’s
sperm in a Petri dish and had been growing and dividing cell-bycell
into his and Carrie’s baby.
“Officer Sarbeck,” the radio dispatcher disrupted Wesley’s
thoughts of the Van Deman Center where he and Carrie were
scheduled for ten o’clock in the morning. The dispatcher
continued, “Possible 10-43 at 1216 Jasmine Terrace in the
Eastover subdivision.” Wesley jotted the address on a pad in
his cruiser. “Caller reported to 9-1-1 the possibility of a gunshot
next door. But could have been just a firecracker, caller said,”
the dispatcher detailed before adding specifics which Wesley
absorbed as he turned his cruiser in the direction of the expensive
The residences in the Eastover neighborhood of northeast
Jackson were generally positioned on large acre-plus lots, all
allowing plenty of footage between homes with few zero-lot line
style arrangements except on the periphery of the approximately
seventy-year-old development. The woman who made the 9-1-1
call was unsure from which the direction the noise had come,
perhaps from the driveway next door.
Before the 9-1-1 operator could disconnect the call, the woman
had second thoughts: the sound was definitely a shotgun blast
and not just a firecracker. She was sure that it was the sound of
a shotgun since it resembled one recently heard at a dove hunt
in the Mississippi Delta. She had not hunted that day herself but
had been nearby under a shade tree with barbeque and cocktail in
hand as her husband fired away at a legal limit of birds, making
her well aware of the sound of a shotgun blast. She said that she
couldn’t possibly be mistaken.
Some sort of teenage prank, the popping of an overloaded
electrical transformer, a slamming door, fireworks … Sarbeck ran
through alternate sources of the sound the caller had assumed
DARDEN NORTH, MD
to be a gunshot. Being in the vicinity, he quickly reached the
reported Jasmine Terrace address and turned slowly into the
driveway. He noticed the house was dark except for a few
strategically placed exterior security lights. As Wesley exited the
cruiser, club-sized mag light in hand, gun checked for position, he
updated his location to the dispatcher.
Sarbeck then methodically approached the nearly wall-length
front windows lining the central section of the front of the house
which qualified as a mansion in most vocabularies. He streamed
his light through the clear glass in methodical inspection, the
pattern of the beam appearing from the interior as flickering
signals had anyone been at home to see it. Sarbeck detected no
movement within the residence, only a few pieces of furniture and
a statue or two ruling a grand foyer – nothing appearing askew,
everything appearing expensive.
Next, he walked the periphery of the remainder of the building,
entering the rear grounds of the house through a wooden side
gate that broke a solid brick and stone fence. All lower level
windows and doors were locked and undisturbed; the windows
to the upper floor seemed secure as well and also pitch-black.
Wesley assumed that either everyone was asleep or, more likely,
that no one was at home.
Walking back around to the front of the residence, Sarbeck
tried the doorbell. As he would have predicted, there was no
answer. Realizing that the caller could have misjudged the sound
distance and identified the address incorrectly, he decided to
check the next residence down the street and maybe the home on
the other side of that of the caller. He would likely be reporting
this incident as a false alarm, a case of vivid imagination on behalf
of a hunting widow.
The officer returned to his police cruiser, exited the first
driveway, and approached the house next door – another building
that qualified as a mansion if using the same vernacular. In
contrast, this brick and stone manor boasted a security gate at
the bottom of the drive that was fully open as if Officer Sarbeck
were expected. While the exterior security lights were in place and
illuminating the grounds, a smattering of interior lights were also
lit in contrast to the previous address. Wesley reported his new
position while following the curve of the drive. He planned to park
at the front entrance to the home which crowned the top of the
The cruiser’s headlights draped the façade of the house as
Wesley ascended the incline of the brick driveway, long enough to
serve as a short street in many small towns. Slowing as he neared
the wide stone steps that beckoned visitors to the front door, his
headlights illuminated the rear of a car parked over to the right
of the drive in a parking bay of sorts and obscured from the street
by landscaping. The front passenger door was open, the interior
lights burning softly as Sarbeck stopped his vehicle and cautiously
approached the car.
Flashing his mag light across the car in inspection, the insignia
of its trunk glowed Mercedes – the significance of belonging to
the S Class lost on Sarbeck. Reflexively, Wesley radioed another
update to headquarters as he moved closer to the sedan and
added the license plate number to his report. As he rattled off
the last digits of the Hinds County plate, his flashlight was drawn
upward to the back windshield.
Law enforcement officers are trained in the mundane, the
thrilling, the taxing, and the horrific, and as is true of most
occupations the mundane and the taxing aspects typically
predominate. On the other hand, it is the thrilling and horrific
that become most memorable and stiffening for the professional
backbone. This moment for Wesley Sarbeck, lieutenant with the
Jackson, Mississippi, police department, was one of the horrific.
DARDEN NORTH, MD
A material resembling red gelatin mingled with purple grape
jelly glistened in the flashlight beam as it illuminated the blownout
glass that once completely wrapped the rear window of the
Mercedes. The substance had thickened in stalactite fashion,
appearing as dripstone attached to the top of the frame that
once enclosed an intact rear windshield. Questioning his first
impression, he moved closer to the back of the Mercedes,
choosing to round the right corner to inspect further the rear seat
of the S Class.
His flashlight illuminated a 30-06 rifle as it lay tangentially to
the right side of the body, not far from the right arm. Without
touching the remains, Wesley detected that the top rear of the
woman’s skull was absent, no doubt displayed in aggregate with
the brain matter and other blood and pulverized tissue splattered
across the glass of the rear windshield.
Despite his police training and experience, Sarbeck felt
revulsion. There was no immediate sign of a struggle within the
vehicle; the woman’s clothes were not torn or disheveled although
there was no purse or wallet nearby for an easy ID, suggesting
possible robbery. There were no obvious scratches or bruises
on her neck or on the exposed extremities. Even her manicure
appeared impeccable. Curiously, the victim’s facial beauty
had survived the blast, the sound of which the neighbor had
mistakenly associated with that of a shotgun.
Indeed she had been a striking woman, thick brown hair,
physically fit, probably above average height as discerned by the
long slender legs that rested outstretched and slightly spread
apart in the back seat. Officer Sarbeck wondered if this goodlooking
woman had been someone’s wife and then thought about
his own spouse left home alone, vulnerable to attack from the
outside world in his absence. This job is crap, he thought, the
moisture in his eyes surprising him. No one was there to catch
Lieutenant Wesley Sarbeck quickly wipe his eyes on his uniform
sleeve; embarrassed, he glanced around to be sure. He then
longed to hug Carrie tightly, to reassure her that what mattered
was having her as a lifelong mate. They should just forget about
trying to have a baby; they had each other.
Seldom did Wesley’s emotions show in his police work, but
human tragedy touched him as it should – particularly if children
or the elderly were involved. All the same, those feelings never
interfered with his professionalism, and fortunately his exposure
to truly gruesome crime scenes involving any age had been
minimal. This call to Jasmine Terrace just after dark on an
otherwise quiet weekday evening would rank as one of the most
appalling and saddening of those exposures.
Realizing that he had not yet summoned backup, he turned
to his radio and called for a police investigator. His brief report
to the dispatcher included the discovery of a fatality related to a
shooting, and that as a formality an ambulance was needed. It was
not the officer’s immediate duty to differentiate between a case of
murder or suicide – that would be left to the specialists, although
in this instance he had his own opinion.
Signing off with the dispatcher, Wesley remained near the
Mercedes, incredulous at what he had discovered. He more closely
studied the dead woman’s delicate facial features as a feeling of
cold curiosity tempered his admiration for her classic beauty and
sadness for its loss. Wesley appreciated something even more
mystifying about her as she lay there motionless, moist skin
remaining warm to the touch, her body still appealing if one could
ignore the surrounding gore in a residential area where such
things just never happened.
The woman’s face exuded an alarming familiarity to him.
Wesley thought back to that day in his home, to the initial
meeting with Miss Lucille Wax. He remembered her detailed
DARDEN NORTH, MD
color catalogue of human egg donors, posed smiling and available
for hire. Her catalogue … he had studied it intensely as Wax sat
impatiently on the couch. Once he had selected the tall blonde
woman with nice clothes and breasts and received a cursory
approval from his wife to proceed with the fertilization process,
Wesley had not deliberated over the selection.
Strangely, the particulars of each catalogued photograph and
the attached donor descriptions now seemed as vivid to him as
they had that day in the presence of Lucille Wax, the egg broker.
Through clear, dry, startled eyes, Wesley suddenly could see
her again – as clearly as when he first held the compilation that
There was no question; he was sure of it. She was the second
entry in the series, following the pricey medical student and
her dog. She was the rich-looking one standing in front of an
enormous flower arrangement as though she were greeting
him, measly Wesley Sarbeck, at a magnificent, formal party. At
the time, Wesley assumed her personally unapproachable; he
would never see her in the flesh, much less touch her. From a
morbid aspect, his assumption had been only partly correct. The
body lying motionless before him, an absolutely gorgeous face
drained of all color except for a few wisps of thick brunette hair,
not blonde, matted to her forehead by bloody tissue, was indeed
OE-5652 – the second entry in Wax’s catalogue – the one whose
fee fell within the Sarbeck infertility treatment budget.
“I may have something with me that would do. But, what about
your Carolina Herrera leather-trimmed black jacket and matching
sheath dress? Or you could wear your Stella McCartney belted
jacket. It would look fabulous with the Michael Kors smoke and
black plaid pencil skirt.” Minor Leblanc, personal shopper and
stylist, was back in business with an even thinner cell phone,
courtesy of the cellular service store in the mall that stayed open
past six. Had he not encountered such a forgiving traffic cop
earlier that evening, he might not have made it to the mall at all –
one more traffic violation would have jerked his driver’s license.
The incident on I-55 had been reminiscent of a similar close call,
but that previous debacle had involved a female police officer in
another town who, fortunately for Leblanc, eventually lost interest
in him and their arrangement.
The expired deal with that dumpy, policewoman in her twenties
had in no way been a sexual one, not even close; but after his
encounter with the male police officer earlier that night, Minor
Leblanc was gaining confidence in his management of law
enforcement. After freeing himself from the police officer that
evening, Leblanc released his charisma once again, this time
at the mall and upon an impressionable female phone rep. In
exchange for levying no penalty for his outside-of-contract cell
phone replacement, Minor promised her hours of fashion advice
and personal local shopping excursions. So excited was the sweet
but terribly plain service representative that she gratefully tossed
in a cache of extra minutes along with Leblanc’s ultra-slim,
updated model phone.
Once relieved to have again at his disposal the lifeline to his
profitable personal stylist business, Minor Leblanc was growing
to hate himself for repeatedly needing to barter out of jams by
tossing complimentary beauty and fashion consultations into the
mix. Fortunately, the policeman earlier that night had not been
interested, even though Minor Leblanc’s consulting services were
available to men, but the unfortunate salesgirl at the cellular
store was another story. There was not much he was going to be
able to do for her; after all, he was not God. Maybe she would not
DARDEN NORTH, MD
call him, he speculated, but was not convinced. Like the others,
she would take him up on the offer, and when she did, he would
deliver 100 percent Minor Leblanc.
The sound of his new cell phone interrupted his thoughts.
“I hate that noise,” he reacted aloud to the standard ring tone,
adding, “I’ll have to get someone to change it for me. Maybe
something gospel this time.” With an abrupt turn through
the gates leading up to the address on Jasmine Terrace, he
simultaneously answered the call. Minor Leblanc knew that he
was miserably late for the appointment up the hill. His precious,
longtime client Cheryl Choice was waiting, and he assumed that it
was she who was calling regarding his tardiness.
“Oh, it’s you, Miz Tricia,” he added after a hurried hello,
surprised that the caller was not Choice. “Look, please don’t
worry. I am going to take care of you. You shouldn’t fret one bit.
You’ll look fabulous, just like always,” he consoled. “I’m driving
up into another client’s driveway as we speak.” He paused a
minute to allow a short question. “No, I’m in Jackson right now,
but I’ll drive back up to Montclair later tonight after this client’s
appointment.” Oh, Jesus, please don’t let this woman take me up
on that offer! Leblanc prayed silently, considering the hour.
“Let’s see,” he hesitated only a moment, not allowing Miz
Tricia to respond. “If that doesn’t work, then I’ll just be at your
house early in the morning – yes, in plenty of time to get you all
organized and packed before you and the mister leave for the
airport. It won’t take me but a sec to pull some exquisite things
from that wonderful closet of yours, and you’ll be the best looking
thing on Fifth Avenue.”
Minor worked by the hour, earning healthy commissions for his
fashion design and consulting work. His clients were essential to
him, and he knew it. Nevertheless, there were some for whom he
enjoyed working and some for whom he did not. The inopportune
caller in question was Patricia Pennington of Montclair,
Mississippi, who was deep into the second category. It was the
thought of Tricia’s generous tips that kept his aggravation over
the last minute summons to a minimum, annoyance warranted by
her ceremonial refusal of his earlier-in-the-day offer to pack her
suitcase for New York.
During that morning’s delivery of a costly dress with freshly
dyed, color-coordinated shoes perfect for a Manhattan cocktail
party, he practically begged at that moment to arrange her travel
things for her. Having worked with Tricia Pennington for several
years, he correctly predicted a change of mind and the near
tantrum over the frustration of packing a suitcase.
“Minor, I know I should have gotten you to pack for me this
morning.” Pennington said, the regret obvious as Leblanc’s
lightly-colored SUV topped the drive. The pleading in her voice
built to pure desperation. “You’ve just got to cancel what you’re
doing, Minor, and help me. Please!”
The woman was persistent. With chilling accuracy, he could
envision the heaps of mismatched ensembles, strewn across
Pennington’s king-sized bed, hoping to find their way into her
Gucci luggage – an impossible task without the skills of Minor
Leblanc. He glanced down at his Rolex while nearly running off
the driveway into a row of Elaeagnus shrubbery; the time was
nine-thirty, not an unusual hour for a professional to visit a
client, particularly a professional whose schedule was positioned
around the convenience of others. The acknowledgement of that
convenience warranted the ample fees.
Solving last minute fashion disasters before important social
events was Leblanc’s specialty, often jostling him between
adjoining communities to scurry through the expensive
neighborhoods of those towns. He was already late for his
appointment with Cheryl Choice, one of his most prolific clients
DARDEN NORTH, MD
in terms of the racks of apparel, cases of jewelry, and other
assortments of finery she had amassed through him during the
last several years. “I’m sorry, Miz Tricia. You see, I can’t cancel
this client. I’m not like that … never would do such a thing.”
Minor was aghast at her suggestion. “Anyway, I’m pulling up in
the client’s driveway now.”
Trying to focus on the path illuminated by his headlights,
Leblanc’s eyes veered rapidly from side-to-side in silent
aggravation as he fought back a stutter of disbelief in his voice.
How could this woman I’m talking to suggest such a thing?
he thought again, reaching the back of the mansion’s driveway
and parking at the left rear loggia entrance. This was Minor’s
established drop-off point for a woman who preferred his visits to
be confidential, her sources for high fashion highly guarded.
Minor’s rush up the driveway and his preoccupation with the
call from Patricia Pennington of Montclair caused him to whiz
by the patrol car and Mercedes, failing to notice either vehicle
parked to the extreme right of the circular drive. Officer Sarbeck
was early into his discovery at that moment, still a quiet find,
with no flashing blue lights and no squawking radio. Although
Leblanc’s skills of observation fell short in noticing the ensuing
police investigation, Wesley Sarbeck could not miss Leblanc’s
hasty arrival on the other side of the property. No one could
have missed the streaking headlights and acceleration of Minor’s
vehicle racing to meet Leblanc favorite, Cheryl Choice, a meeting
that would not take place, at least not in the usual sense.
“OK,” he acquiesced, trying to mask a sigh. “I’ll be right over
as soon as I meet with this client.” By now, Leblanc had stopped
his SUV, turned off the ignition, and exited after grabbing a few
of the client's expected things. “I’ve gotta go now. This client has
had this appointment for over a week, Miz Tricia. Like I said, I’m
running a little late to meet her. Bye!” Leblanc slid his new cell
into his front right pocket, a reflexive maneuver that would avoid
a shattering fall for his new treasured lifeline.
“Hold it there a minute, sir. I need to ask you a few questions.”
The intense beam of Sarbeck’s mag light as it illuminated
Minor Leblanc’s dark, startled face might as well have been a
bullet. There was a sharp scream, not really high-pitched, but a
shriek nonetheless that was somewhere between masculine and
feminine, but closer to the latter.
Minor Leblanc stood frozen with hands raised, holding two
bulging shopping bags by the handles with flexed wrists – his
body forming a large capitalized letter Y in the stream of light,
the bags serving as slight downturns to the upper, outer tip of the
“You again!” both men exclaimed simultaneously, although
Leblanc’s terrified voice was no match for the authority found in
the policeman’s surprise.
Instinctively, Sarbeck pushed forward, his adrenaline pumping
in disbelief over what he had discovered during a routine
investigation of a reported noise disturbance: a beautiful
woman’s brain spattered all over the rear of an expensive
automobile and the reappearance of this strange guy he had
stopped earlier on a moving vehicle violation. He wished his
support had arrived by now.
“Is this your residence, sir? Do you live here?” Officer Sarbeck
probed, trying to recall the name from the driver’s license
while not placing the fellow’s address at this present location.
He had not demanded that the black male speeder now raise his
hands, nor did he tell him to lower them. The shopping bags
were swaying gently from forward to back, and Wesley
remembered spotting similar packages overflowing the seats of
the fellow’s SUV.
“Oh, Jesus, no. I don’t live here. I’m here for an appointment to
see a client.”
DARDEN NORTH, MD
“An appointment with whom?”
“Miz Cheryl Choice. She lives here with her husband.” Leblanc
turned slightly and gestured with the packages toward the door
to the rear of the house that was softly illuminated. “She’s
“Sir, please stay in your position, facing me. I need to ask you
a few questions. In fact, an investigator from my department
will be joining me in just a moment, and I’m sure he will want to
question you also.”
“Look, Mister Officer,” Leblanc stuttered. The packages had
ceased to shake, the movement replaced by that of Leblanc’s
parched, twitching mouth. “Mister Policeman, I was not trying
to rob the place. Like I said, I have an appointment with the lady
of the house. I don’t need to go to jail. The only reason I would
consider going near a prison would be to put on a fashion seminar
for those poor incarcerated souls.” Beads of perspiration had
formed on Leblanc’s forehead to match those appearing in his
armpits. His large, white eyes had returned to a rapid quiver.
“Sir, gently place those bags down at your feet and follow me
quietly around to the front of the drive,” Wesley commanded.
“Officer, am I under arrest?” queried Minor. Sarbeck did not
immediately answer, unsure about his next move except that he
intended to settle his immediate curiosity about the identity of
the body without disturbing it. Was the woman lying mutilated
in the back seat of the Mercedes this Cheryl Choice? And if she
was, then she was OE-5652, the woman in the Wax catalogue, the
genetic mother of his soon-to-be baby.
“Let me see some identification.” For the second time that day,
Sarbeck inspected the driver’s license of Minor Leblanc. “All right,
Mr. Leblanc, follow me around front.”
“Now, I know my rights. All I do 24 hours a day is try to help
people. I was not trying to break into this house. Don’t try to put
me in any squad car.”
“Sir, I have not accused you of anything. Please cooperate with
me. Simply walk around to the front of the house with me.”
Minor complied, albeit reluctantly, following the officer’s
directive to walk in front of him. Regardless of what might be
presumed elsewhere, Minor was not concerned with present-day
racial profiling. He was more concerned over the situation in
general, really more confused than anything else and did not feel
in danger since the officer was not brandishing a weapon.
“Officer, I think I should ring the doorbell and tell Miz Cheryl
that I’m here,” Leblanc halted, turning around quickly to face the
policeman. He immediately regretted the unexpected change of
pace, thinking that he might have startled the officer into drawing
“Don’t think that’s necessary, Mr. Leblanc. Nobody seems to
be in the house. At least there’s no one available or willing to
answer the door.” Minor stood stone-faced, more perspiration
rolling down onto his cheeks. “Just keep walking, please, as I have
instructed,” Sarbeck continued.
The two were rounding the front corner of the mansion as the
sound of a siren oozed in stereo from the distance, increasing the
flow of Leblanc’s sweat as, rather than quickening, his gait slowed
even more in apprehension.
“Head over to that car over there.” Sarbeck redirected his
flashlight beam at the Mercedes, realizing that his tactics of
investigation might not represent proper procedure, but he
had to know the real identity of the woman in the car. Was she
Cheryl Choice? And if so, she was OE-5652. Besides, he was not
going to let this strange Leblanc fellow touch anything close to
the actual scene, so there would be no compromise of evidence.
Anyway, Leblanc was certain to be called as a witness and might
be implicated somehow in the death.
As the two moved closer to the vehicle, Minor announced in
DARDEN NORTH, MD
surprise, “That’s Miz Cheryl’s car. She never parks her Mercedes
there; at least I’ve never seen it there – always assumed it to be
back in the garage when I’ve been over here.”
“How do you know whose car it is?”
“She’s driven me in this car to Memphis and Atlanta a couple of
times to shop with her. We’ve flown everywhere else that was too
far to drive.”
Wesley Sarbeck made no comment.
Just as a couple of squad cars raced up the driveway with an
ambulance wedged in between, the walking policeman and his
would-be suspect neared the car. The shock of seeing a shattered
and soiled rear windshield completely distracted Minor from the
approaching entourage and what he would have previously feared
to represent cavalry coming for poor Minor Leblanc. Sarbeck
quickly led him around the side of the Mercedes and illuminated
the face of the body with his mag light.
“Oh, no. Oh, Jesus!” This time there was no phone or precious
cargo being held that could be dropped. Instead, Minor’s entire
body collapsed on the pavement in an awkward puddle.
The on-the-scene photographer for The Clarion-Ledger was
able to make deadline for the newspaper the next morning, so a
picture of the corpse stretched on a gurney under standard white
drape made the front page. Along with a brief article about the
shooting, which included a couple of clipped quotes from Minor
Leblanc, was a more flattering file photo of a smiling, brunette
Cheryl Choice along with her handsome husband Gregg, holding
their prized croquet mallets. The spring before, the Choices had
posed as the victors of a couples’ charity match, held to benefit
Since the crime statistics of that neighborhood seldom included
more than the occasional home burglary or car theft, a gruesome
murder in Eastover was not only newsworthy for Jackson but
also made headlines statewide. The horrific death of the beautiful
socialite and wife to an entrepreneur of rising prominence in
the exercise and fitness industry even reached The Commercial
Appeal in Memphis and The Dallas Morning News.
Had Officer Wesley Sarbeck seen a later edition of USA Today
at police headquarters downtown, he might have seen the Choices’
photograph there as well, buried deep in the first section along
with an abbreviated cutline. However, he did notice the picture
on the front page of his own newspaper as he retrieved it from the
foot of the driveway the morning after the shooting. That marked
the third time he had seen Cheryl Choice either in a photograph
or in the flesh. Wesley had seen her both as a brunette and as a
blonde. He had seen her happy, and he had seen her dead.
Ponder House Press, the publishing company releasing Dr. Darden North’s latest medical thriller, “Fresh Frozen,” could not have chosen a more fitting moment to release the novel. With a presidential election only five days away from this article’s printing, the topic of abortion, and more broadly the issues surrounding fertility and stem cell research, are constant topics of conversation for both pundits and private citizens, and provide hours of entertainment fodder on shows such as “Dr. Phil” (where a recent episode had fathers arguing their right not to pay child support) and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (where a recent episode featured stolen embryos).
In North’s third medical thriller, Wesley and Carrie Sarbeck have struggled for years to get pregnant, all but bankrupting them and nearly killing Carrie at one point. Feeling left out of a society where having a child is almost compulsory, the Sarbecks decide to make one last, desperate grab for the American Dream, and visit the Van Deman Center, just outside of Jackson. Housed in what was once an abandoned, dilapidated building, the Van Deman Center has emerged as the pre-eminent fertility clinic in the United States. It is where the Sarbecks, superstar Allyn Saxton, and southern belle Cheryl Choice all go. But with an internet voyeur tapping into the clinic’s security system, and a poisonous mix of hormones and surgical treatments killing one of the aforementioned patients, the pursuit of life suddenly becomes a run from death. With desperate would-be parents, embryo and sperm peddlers, pepping toms, and doctors with reputations to maintain at any cost, the characters of “Fresh Frozen” seem to collide into each other.
North will be signing his latest thriller at Off Square Books on Oct. 31, at 5 p.m. North is an obstetrician/gynecologist from Jackson, with years of experience, and his knowledge of this field comes across in his writing. Dealing with topics that would have seemed like science fiction 25 years ago, this is medical suspense that puts Robin Cook on notice.
Darden North has delivered
BY SUSAN O'BRYAN
"The Clarion-Ledger" (Jackson, MS)
Darden North has delivered with his latest. "Fresh Frozen" is no quick-and easy ‘beach’ read, but instead makes the reader pause, look deep inside, and
question his own ethical and moral standards. North is a talented writer.”
Mississippi Library Association recommends
North, Darden. Fresh Frozen.
Jackson, MS: Ponder House Press, 2008.
344 pp. $26.95 (hardcover)
"Fresh Frozen" is the author’s third mystery set in Jackson, Mississippi. Readers will be taken behind the medical scenes of the Van Deman Reproductive Center, a lucrative facility that provides advanced technology in the process of frozen embryos. The four main characters – Wesley and Carrie Sarbeck, Cheryl Choice, and Allyn Saxton – all are individuals who desperately want to have children and are turning to the reproductive center for help. Unfortunately, their desperation collides in a plot filled with murder, deceit, and even the larceny of frozen embryos.
North does an excellent job of detailing the precise work behind human reproductive technology. Readers may find themselves comparing the book to today’s media attractions such as the Octomom, Jon and Kate Plus 8, and other celebrities who are seeking assistance from fertility clinics. The jargon is easy to read and, since it is loaded with intrigue and information about this medical process, it will be a page turner for readers. In some areas of the book, however, certain characters were futile and could have been deleted easily, while others could have appeared more frequently with a stronger voice. The book is recommended for public libraries with an audience interested in medical thrillers.
Katrina Research Center
University of Southern Mississippi
Entry Filed under: Book Reviews
Posted on: September 29th, 2009