Death Spiral is tightly written with the emphasis on the development and history of the main character as well as her social development. Most of the action happens in the last quarter and moves quickly to resolution from there on. The mystery is centered in science, more specifically in gene therapies, but it is not overdone and presented in terms that anyone can grasp. Death Spiral was a fun and fast read. I’m curious where Ms. Chodosh will take Faith and her group of allies next.

Death Spiral is the debut novel of Janie Chodosh and book one of the Faith Flores Science Mysteries. The novel introduces Faith Flores the sixteen-year-old protagonist whose mother, a heroin addict, dies from what everyone—her sister, the police, the medical examiner—or, in short, the world assumes is an overdose. Everyone, of course, but Faith. Faith is the only one who believes that her mother was clean at the time of her death and died from some mysterious affliction that left her visibly scarred and emaciated. A visit with one of her mother’s junkie friends adds fire to Faith’s belief. The woman tells Faith that she is participating in the same experimental clinical drug trial for heroin addiction as her mother was at the time of her death, and is showing the same adverse symptoms. The junkie’s sudden death confirms Faith’s suspicions and she begins to investigate the clinic, the doctors running it, and the experimental drug being used to cure heroin addiction.

Of course, as a sixteen year old with a junkie mother, no one believes Faith’s suspicions. As she digs further in order to clear her mother’s name she is thwarted, threatened, and even bribed with a compensation package. When the medical examiner who did the autopsy on her mother and then the doctor who ran the methadone clinic where the trial was being conducted mysteriously die, Faith knows she is getting closer to the truth. Her life may be in danger, she is alienating friends and her aunt, her school work is suffering, but she can’t stop. The truth eventually leads her to misguided or crooked doctors, playing with gene therapies, and the multi-million dollar world of pharmaceutical companies.

Brought up by a junkie mother, Faith is beyond her sixteen years of age. She is resilient, smart, hard around the edges, but inside a girl who believes in the truth that was her mother and wants everyone to know that truth. She wants to move forward with her life, and dreams about a career in science, but needs to clear the past first. Her wisecracks and snide remarks are somewhat on the overdone side but don’t mask the fact that she is hurting. She is a loner and known as “the junkie’s daughter” at school. She prefers to work solo but eventually learns the value of friends.