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Bad Seed: An Alex Bernier Mystery    by Beth Saulnier order for
Bad Seed
by Beth Saulnier
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Bad Seed was my first encounter with Alex Bernier and I plan to spend more time with her. She has all the right stuff for a modern mystery heroine. She's smart, sassy, occasionally vulnerable, and even has the obligatory police officer boyfriend. Their differences help them to get along. He's a 'real Boy Scout law-and-order type' and she's a 'bleeding heart, anti-death-penalty, save-the-seals sort'. Alex also loves to eat and to feed her friends, which is appropriate as this mystery revolves around feeding the world.

There are two major threads that run through the story, to be tied together later in the plot. Alex is tangled in each of them through her job as a reporter for the Gabriel Monitor. First she covers the trial for murder of the 'aggressive rice throwing' bride of Lane Freeman. After her conviction, Shelley Freeman harrasses Alex into attempting to prove her innocence, or at least to write a story about it. Then, when her friend and fellow reporter Mad plays hookey, Alex covers a conference on agricultural biotechnology, along with the protest put on outside it by the D.B.F.C. ('Don't Break the Food Chain') types.

The main target of the protesters is the seemingly saintly figure of Professor Kate Barnett, whose obsession is to apply genetic engineering to save the world from hunger - perceived by her opponents as the creation of 'Frankenfoods'. The action speeds up, starting with an attack by protesters dressed 'like very angry broccoli and tomatoes and carrots and ears of corn', and continuing with poisonings, murder, bomb blasts and more. The serious issues are there but as well disguised as the angry vegetables.

Overall, Bad Seed is a lot of fun with a distinct element of farce - it left me keen to catch up on the previous Alex Bernier adventures, but somewhat disinclined to eat rice.

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