The Chemist, by Stephenie Meyer

She’s named Alex … for now. She used to work for an ultra-secret agency. She’s a brilliant chemist. When working for the agency she also used her chemistry skills to extract information from terrorists in cases where information could save lives. Using chemicals to loosen inhibitions or cause incredible if temporary pain. One day her undercover lab was filled with a dose of lethal gas that killed her mentor but missed her. Since then she’s gone deep undercover to save her own life. Any place she can rest she secures the place with boobytraps of lethal gas, which is the reason she sleeps with a gasmask at night. She also has rings with short needles that can knock an attacker out or kill them in seconds.

This thriller in the Ludlum tradition gives us an ingenious and lethal heroine. Small in stature she could match Bourne with her skills in chemicals and weapons, the latter she’s had to learn on the run. Now she’s been lulled into a belief that all is well with her agency and they need her back to question a terrorist who could kill thousands unless information is extracted. As she does her work she begins to realize that her target has no information at all, but has a protector with commando skills. She realizes that she and the commando have both been double-crossed, with her target as an innocent pawn. Now she has to figure out if the three of them can make an alliance or if one of them will have to die.

It’s a fun book to zip through. It has tons of action and life-or-death situations. The three main characters all have their positive attributes and skills. Like me, you may not be a fan of torture as a way of gathering information. Meyer does work to keep her heroine within some ethical limits, with the idea that torture causing pain (such as injecting high doses of uric acid into muscles, like post-exercise muscle pain X 10,000) is preferable to those who would cut off digits or scar with sharp instruments. She’ll also only work when lives are at stake. All the same she’s not averse to getting physical in the name of self-defense or revenge.

One of the key parts of a story like this is getting the reader involved in the sense of paranoia … anyone could end up being the next bad guy. Meyer does that well and is even able to work in a little romance between two of the main characters. A fun thrill read.