Reproductive technologies run amok in this knotty medical thriller.

Anya Krim, a brilliant Washington, D.C.-based obstetrician and fertility

specialist, is at the top of her game—she's handling first lady Janet Cartwright's in vitro fertilization—when a series of conundrums throw her for a loop. She delivers a hideously deformed infant who has no father, according to the distraught mom. Then Sen. Nelson Tanner calls on her to take care of his daughter Megan, who has become pregnant despite having been in a coma for two years. These disastrous pregnancies weigh heavily on Anya, not least of all because a traumatic rape has given her a phobia about sex that, she fears, will leave her childless. All of Washington buzzes with reproductive issues as a bill

to allow the therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells inches through Congress; pro-lifers are opposed, but biotech entrepreneur Hugh Nicholson, hoping it will open the door to a lucrative business in cloning human children, supports the measure and has hired a woman named Destiny to lobby senators while entertaining them in bed. As these controversies swirl, Anya endures a nerve-gas attack, gets embroiled in a probe that points to Tanner as the father of Megan's child, and becomes the prime suspect when the first lady's fertilized embryos go missing. Hershlag, a fertility doctor, regales readers with the absorbing science and gruesome procedures of cutting edge reproductive technology, and with the eyebrow-knitting ethical dilemmas surrounding them. His drama has third-act problems: the embryo-napping is a feckless affair and the plight of the dust mote-sized hostages, as they incubate in their petri dishes, doesn't deeply resonate. Fortunately, Hershlag is a skillful writer, with a good ear for dialogue and a knack for drawing colorful but believable characters. His well-paced narrative will keep readers turning pages as the mystery gestates.

An entertaining yarn about the brave new world of artificial baby-making.


timely exhilarating medical thriller  ***** 

Fertility expert Dr. Anya Krim has DC's leading women as her patients. Currently she is working with the First Lady Janet Cartwright trying to keep her client's embryos safe from DNA alteration and from anything else, natural or otherwise that could harm them.. However, the case that intrigues her most besides her own desire for a child is that of the senator's comatose daughter Megan Tanner; the woman still in a coma for the last two years is pregnant. Ethical and legal pressure mounts on Anya as her patients are reading about new unapproved techniques and making demands of her while the extremes of the political spectrum want to use her as a scapegoat to further their personal agendas. She understands the feelings of her patients as she too considers using some of these new untested medical breakthroughs on herself. The key to this timely exhilarating medical thriller is that Dr. Avner Hershlag provides an insightful look at cutting edge fertility medicine without dumbing down or selecting a political agenda. With a strong lead character and a powerful support cast, aptly titled Misconception condemns the left and the right cherry picking information to defend their moral stance regardless of the victim of their so called ethnicity; the end defines the meanness of the means. Dr. Hershlag provides a winning profound look at what the health care debate ignored; the pressures a doctor faces in choosing the best care for a patient.

ForeWord Reviews

ForeWord Clarion Review

Avner Hershlag
Four Stars (out of Five)

In this riveting medical thriller, author Avner Hershlag brings the idea of human cloning to disturbing life and opens a Pandora's Box of unsettling possibilities. With an intriguing cast of characters and a fast-paced plot, Misconception easily captivates readers from prologue to epilogue.

          Despite her strong desire for motherhood, a traumatic event in Dr. Anya Krim's past her has left with a fear of physical intimacy. It has also caused her to avoid delivering babies. She is focusing instead on stem-cell and organ cloning research and acting as fertility specialist to the First Lady. She reluctantly agrees to deliver a baby as a favor to an old friend, but is shocked when the child is born severely deformed, its sex uncertain and true parentage unknown. Before she has a chance to delve into that mystery, she is drawn into another involving the inexplicable pregnancy of a Senator's comatose daughter.
          Dr. Jeremy "Cody" Coddington, an acquaintance from Anya's medical school days, now works for a company named Reprotech, where he uses his expertise to clone pets for wealthy clients. His increasingly unstable boss, Hugh Nicholson, suffers from a genetic disorder, and his resentment infects his attitude toward the company's work. When certain business plans fall through, he begins to consider ethically frightening options to keep the company solvent. He explains to Cody, "If you thought there was lots of money in replacement pets, I have news for you: the real money's in replacement children. We just have to work out the science."
          Before long, Anya is racing the clock to ensure the viability and physical safety of embryos belonging to the President and First Lady, while simultaneously trying to pull all of the puzzle pieces together. As the threats to both her professional life and physical well-being escalate, Anya frantically tries to protect her patients and salvage her career.
          Misconception examines timely ethical and political issues with a story rich in twists and turns that seems just this side of possible. Hershlag's personal expertise as a fertility specialist and his natural storytelling ability ensure that complicated concepts and procedures are clearly explained, moving the plot forward without bogging it down. Characters are credible and well-developed, and the story structure is solid and suspenseful. While the novel loses a bit of steam toward the end, and a few scenarios feel slightly less than plausible (a character is run over twice and makes a rather miraculous recovery within days), such missteps could easily be corrected. In spite of these issues, the novel remains engaging and Hershlag capably juggles several connected storylines, bringing them all together in an ultimately satisfying denouement.
          Misconception is a worthwhile read and a fascinating look inside a world of medical advances that are both lifesaving and ethically questionable.

Jeannine Chartier Hanscom