Cover image for The protocol
The protocol
Christofferson, April.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 1999.
Physical Description:
304 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Jennifer Rockhill is hired as the corporate attorney for a Seattle biotech firm led by Dr. Sherwood Fielding, whose dealing in illegally obtained human organs caused her husband's death, but she soon discovers that Fielding has embarked on deadly new research.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dr. Sherwood Fielding's avariciousness is mainly to blame for Jennifer Rockhill's widowhood, and she moves to Seattle to pursue vengeance. Obtaining the position of contract attorney at Fielding's BioGentech Co., she soon establishes a solid position on the staff. When ex-CIA agent Matthew Pace takes on the job of economic spy for World Therapeutics, Inc., and shows up in Seattle, the main characters are all on the beautiful scene. By chance, Jennifer finds BioGentech's secret lab and starts exploring. Bits and pieces indicate attempts at human cloning, and people start dropping like flies. Jennifer and Matthew realize they are both headed in the same direction and can accomplish more together than separately. Christofferson's imaginatively thought-out story never stretches for effect, and the characters behave credibly in its realistically developed plot. Furthermore, the only one in the book who doesn't keep moving is the scientist who gets jammed alive into a deep-freeze unit, and Fielding is one of the most despicable characters in recent medical thrillers. Christofferson's second novel leaves us eagerly awaiting the third. --William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

Starring two complex and often fallible characters, this debut thriller is expertly paced and tautly woven. Michael Crichton-like in its scientific focus, the novel begins when beautiful, widowed attorney Jennifer Rockhill is hired as in-house counsel for BioGentech, a Seattle biotechnology company run by her nemesis, Dr. Sherwood Fielding. Though he doesn't know who she is, Jennifer suspects that Fielding, then a physician in Southern California, killed her husband, comatose after a car accident, in order to sell his kidneys on the black market. Since her daughter died in the same accident, Jennifer has nothing to lose. Her fledgling plans for revenge collide with the agenda of suave, manipulative Matthew Pace, an ex-CIA agent who now makes his living as a corporate spy. Jennifer and Matthew, both trying to discover the secret behind Fielding's "Project X," stumble together upon so many illegal genetic experiments and biological grotesqueries that they decide to join forces. Christofferson's narrative moves briskly, easily shifting from the heroes' perspective to Fielding's. Though too many new characters are introduced as the novel progressesÄeven the climactic scene at the end unfolds to reveal a new villain, diminishing the force of Fielding's downfallÄthe author compensates by developing a credible romance between Jennifer and Matthew, who at first seem unswervingly single-minded in their self-serving missions. Although it's not the metaphorical treatise on the dangers of genetic engineering that Christofferson might have intended, the novel offers a rapid pace, high body count and well-rounded characters that combine to make the story a suspenseful success. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Christofferson, a Seattle biotechnology attorney, enters the realm of medical fiction with the story of corporate attorney Jennifer Rockhill, recently hired by a biotechnology firm in Seattle. Consequently, the reader learns a good deal about the business of biotechnology as she recounts Rockhill's quest to avenge her husband's death, which she attributes to Dr. Sherwood Fielding, biotechnologist, physician, and founder of BioGentech. With former CIA agent Matthew Place, an interesting and daring accomplice, Rockhill follows the trail into a world of illegal organ procurement and, worse, human cloning. Fast-paced, suspenseful, and frightening, this work highlights the conflicts that can result from the overcommercialization of science as well as the dangers of uncontrolled scientific experimentation. It should definitely be read during the light of day. For substantial fiction collections.ÄLinda M.G. Katz, MCP Hahnemann Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Protocol CHAPTER ONE J ENNIFER ROCKHILL CRADLED the phone in the crook of her neck and took a deep, shaky breath before hanging it up. It was done. She'd actually talked to the bastard, had scheduled an interview for next week, on Wednesday. She grabbed her briefcase, climbed into her car--a little green Volvo that Charlie had bought her just a few days before the accident--and headed for Fresno. She would spend the better part of the next few days at Fresno State University. In preparation for the interview she'd just scheduled, she had become a self-taught expert on biotechnology. She devoured each issue of Bioworld --the industry newsletter, which was faxed to her daily--and used its articles to cue her on which topics she should master. She'd visited FSU so frequently that the librarian at the med school teased her about becoming a permanent fixture in the dank, clammy building that housed over two hundred thousand volumes of medical journals. It had occupied her time, dominated it, the past six months. And next week it would all pay off. She could hardly believe it when, after a half-hour telephone interview with the Director of Human Resources, she'd been put through to Sherwood Fielding. His voice was exactly as she'd remembered. Cold, formal. Arrogant. Nothing in it hinted that he might have recognized her voice. Of course, they'd only spoken once before, years ago. And she'd been close to hysteria that time. This time was different. This time she had been calm, rational. In complete control. She had impressed him, of that she was certain. "Good biotech attorneys are hard to come by," he'd told her. "Where did you say you've been working?" "In the technology transfer department at Fresno State," she'd answered. "I handle research and licensing contracts." It was more a half-truth than an out-and-out lie, but aside from her concern that his uncovering the falsehood could thwart her plans, she had no problem whatsoever lying to this man. "That's just what we're looking for," Fielding had said. "Someone with experience in the industry. We've had a couple of local employment agencies on this position, but they're totally incompetent. They've been sending us morons. Not one of them could pass the most basic biology exam. We'd just decided to list with a national headhunter. Maybe now, that won't be necessary." "I'm confident you'll decide not," Jennifer had answered. "It's a stroke of luck you contacted us," Sherwood Fielding had said to her before hanging up. "For both of us." A stroke of luck. As she negotiated the two-laner that connected her hometown of Visalia to Interstate 99, Jennifer had to smile. Luck had nothing to do with it. She'd been waiting, patiently waiting, for this day. It had taken her almost a year to locate him. But the moment she did, the moment she saw his name in an article in the LA Times' science and technology section, her plan had begun taking form. Once she learned where Sherwood Fielding was--in Seattle now, running a biotech company called BioGentech--she knew that with patience, she would find a way to get to him. J. T. Ryberg had not only helped her find the way, but had paved it for her. An ad in The Hacker Quarterly promising "can penetrate anyone, anywhere" had led Jennifer to J. T.--a former Yahoo! employee who'd seen a brighter future working solo. J. T. knew his stuff, and with his help, Jennifer was soon reading e-mail generated and received within the confines of the BioGentech building six hundred miles away, in Seattle. An early memo from Fielding to his vice president of finance had given her the idea. Review of budget shows excessive outside counsel fees. In-house attorney may be warranted. Let's monitor and evaluate in six months. Jennifer had put those six months to good use. Her forty-five-mile commutes to Fresno became part of her daily regimen. One day severalmonths earlier, on her way off-campus from the library, she'd noticed the sign that read OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER. Technology Transfer. She'd noticed that term time and again in Bioworld She'd pulled into the parking lot and gone inside, where she'd introduced herself to one of two overworked staff attorneys. "I'm a contract attorney interested in going into biotech law," she'd told Grace Bell. "I'll work for nothing. Literally. I just want to get some experience." It hadn't been an official hire; but Grace knew a good thing when she saw it and soon Jennifer was drafting agreements--the same kind of agreements that a company like BioGentech needed. Jennifer had continued monitoring BioGentech e-mails. Two weeks earlier she'd read one from Fielding to Carolyn Powell, the human resources person to whom she'd just spoken. Have one of our local agencies start looking for an in-house contract attorney. Jennifer was still vascillating about what step to take next when yesterday morning's e-mail from Carolyn to Fielding caused her to catch her breath: Reminder: another candidate for contract attorney coming in this afternoon. What if they hired this person? She'd have to start over, come up with another plan. But Fielding's curt reply, written at the end of the day, placated her. Don't waste my time with another worthless candidate. It was time to make her move. Jennifer had picked up the phone, asked for Carolyn Powell, and explained that she was a California attorney about to move to Seattle. Since her background was in biotech, she was calling all the local firms to see if they might be hiring in the near future. "This is amazing," Carolyn had responded, sounding almost giddy (most likely, thought Jennifer, at the prospect of redeeming herself with her boss). "We happen to be in the interview process at this very moment." Forty-five minutes later, Jennifer had an appointment to meet with Sherwood Fielding. Next Wednesday, 9:00 A.M. In Seattle. Now that the wheels had been put in motion, a sense of calm settledover Jennifer. She had a lot to do in the next five days. An airline ticket to buy. Loose ends to tie up for Grace, who--used now to Jennifer's assistance--would undoubtedly fall apart at the prospect of her departure. More studying to do. Still, as she pulled off Highway 99 at the Fresno State exit, for the first time in three years, Jennifer Rockhill actually felt the tide might be changing; that things might finally be going her way.     HER FLIGHT ARRIVED at six-fifteen on Tuesday evening. Carolyn Powell had arranged for her to stay at the Residence Inn directly across the street from Lake Union. BioGentech's offices, Carolyn told her, were just two blocks north of the hotel. From her small balcony, Jennifer watched as the lights of the downtown district popped out, accentuating the city's futuristic skyline. She'd heard Seattle was beautiful, but none of the pictures in articles she'd read had succeeded in capturing this. To the south, skyscrapers piercing a velvet sky. Beyond, mythical in proportion, the fading outline of Mount Rainier. Due west, the sun dropping behind the jagged peaks of the Olympic Mountains while in the foreground a lighted ferry streamed across Elliott Bay's black expanse. After a fitful night's sleep, she got up and showered. Usually she let her thick, shoulder-length hair dry naturally, but on workdays she'd almost always blown it dry to try to tame its mass of chestnut curls and present a more professional image. She'd occasionally wondered if the exotic air lent by her unruly tresses and a narrow, slightly arched nose, both of which she'd inherited from a grandmother who was half Lakota, half Irish, played against her in the whitebread legal world in which she'd worked. Today she couldn't allow that possibility. Looking professional was essential, so she spent a little extra time on it, curling her hair under at its ends with her brush. Long dark lashes eliminated the need for mascara, but applying a touch of coverup to the circles underneath had become part of her daily ritual these past couple years. She chose a classic navy blue pantsuit for the interview. She still had a closet full of similarly conservative suits from her years with Butera, Jensen, Moe, and O'Connor, where she had worked for six years before Charlie and Stacey's deaths. The size eight she'd worn then hung loose on her frame now. The extra ten pounds that years of twice-weekly aerobics hadn't budged were, now that she no longer cared, long gone. She'd sworn that she'd never put the suits on again. That her loss had robbed her of the resiliency and simple faith in justice that she felt to be absoluteprerequisites to making a living in the spiritually draining legal world. When the insurance money ran out, she'd planned on doing something else, something entirely new. Maybe even going back to school to get a teaching certificate. But that was before she found out about Sherwood Fielding. At precisely 8:45, she headed out the hotel's front door.     As PROMISED BY CAROLYN Powell, the giant metal sculpture of a futuristic medical symbol rotating on a column in front of its entrance made BioGentech's offices hard to miss. After reading the directory in the lobby, Jennifer took the elevator up to the sixth floor, where it opened to a lavish reception area. The black marble surface of the counter encircling the desk behind which the receptionist sat matched the floor. On either side of the receptionist's area, long, wide corridors led to floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the city skyline and the waters of Lake Union. Oversized artwork--an oil behind the desk, and an abstract of the symbol rotating outside--imparted a further sense of drama. The receptionist, a vivacious brunette identified by a nameplate as Zelma Webster, chattered animatedly on the phone. She flashed Jennifer a smile and, pushing a clipboard across the counter to her, mouthed to her to sign in. Jennifer wrote her name, the time, and left a blank under the column labeled "Company," then seated herself in one of three leather chairs. When Zelma finished her phone call, she turned the clipboard her way. "So you're Ms. Rockhill," she said cheerfully, "you're interviewing for the attorney position." "That's right." "I'll let Dr. Fielding know you're here." After a brief, hushed phone conversation, Zelma came around from behind the desk. "I'll show you the way." Despite two-and-a-half-inch heels, the diminutive Zelma barely came up to Jennifer's chin. Jennifer followed her down the left hallway. At the end they made a turn, which took them past several offices exposed to the corridor by walls of glass, which enabled Jennifer to see not only the interior of each office, but all the way through to the outside windows--all of which provided the offices' occupants with incredible views. After working in the environment of a modestly successful law firm, she was struck by the opulence of the accommodations. Each office housed oversizedcherry-wood desks and a separate sitting area, furnished with stylish chairs and settees. At the end of the hall, Zelma stopped and rapped on a door that read SHERWOOD FIELDING, M.D., PRESIDENT AND CEO. Fielding's office, Jennifer immediately observed, lacked the glass walls that robbed the others of any sense of privacy. Standing there, a sense of panic swept over Jennifer. Had she lost her mind? She had become so fixated on finding Sherwood Fielding that quite possibly she'd lost the ability to reason. But then, as Zelma tentatively pushed the door open to announce their arrival, Jennifer heard the voice again-- his voice, coming from inside the room--and the simple sound of it, the gut reaction it invoked in the core of her being, yanked her back on to steady ground. Zelma pulled the door closed again. "He's on the phone," she whispered apologetically. "I'm sure he'll be right with us." They stood staring at the door until finally, it opened. "Sorry to keep you waiting." Sherwood Fielding stood before them, framed by the doorway. He was nothing like Jennifer had imagined. As a child, she'd had a teacher--a slight, shrewish man named Mr. Mayhume--who had taken great pleasure in intimidating her and the other girls in her third-grade class. Without even realizing it she had, in her mind's eye, given Sherwood Fielding a face and body like that of Mayhume. This man--tall, slick, obviously vain in his pricey Ralph Lauren pinstripes--was actually attractive, and that very fact made him all the more odious to her. When Fielding stuck out his hand for her, Jennifer had to catch herself, stifle her natural reaction to draw back in repulsion. "I'm Sherwood Fielding. It's a pleasure to meet you." She grasped the proffered hand firmly. "Jennifer Rockhill, and the pleasure is mine." Fielding nodded at Zelma to dismiss her and waved Jennifer inside. Fielding's domain made the other offices she'd just passed look paltry. At least three times the size of the others, it had a continuous wall of windows overlooking the water, and a large deck, furnished with a chaise lounge for sunning. At the far end sat a highly polished black mahogany desk and matching credenza. Bookshelves, featuring many of the same journals Jennifer had recently studied, lined the long wall opposite the windows. And at the end opposite Fielding's desk sat two overstuffed white leather chairs and a small sofa centered around a gas fireplace. Thewall on either side of the fireplace displayed diplomas, certificates, and numerous photographs of Fielding. Though fifteen feet separated it from the doorway in which she stood, one photo immediately drew Jennifer's eyes. Fielding with another man, who, even at this distance, Jennifer thought she recognized. The urge to approach it was hard to resist; but Fielding had grabbed her by the elbow and now steered her to the other end of the room, where he motioned for Jennifer to take a seat and then proceeded to settle behind his desk. "First time in Seattle?" "Yes." "What do you think?" "I just got in last night, but from what I've seen so far, I like it very much." Fielding pushed back in his oversized chair and studied her. "Let me ask you something," he said. "Before we get into your background. Why is it you're interested in moving here--to a city you've never even visited before?" Jennifer could feel the color creeping into her cheeks. "I'm a widow," she said matter-of-factly. "My husband died of a heart attack a few years ago, at a very young age. I've had a hard time getting over it. I finally decided the best thing for me would be to move away. Start over fresh, where there aren't so many memories." "Any children?" "No." "Family? It must be hard to leave them behind." "I have no family. I was an only child and both my parents died years ago." "I'm sorry," Fielding said without a hint of emotion. "Well, if you're looking for a great place to live, this is it. Seattle's not only one of the most beautiful cities you'll ever find, it also has a lot to offer in terms of culture, nature, sports. You name it." "How about you?" Jennifer asked. "Have you lived here long?" "Years," Fielding answered. "Practically forever." He lied, Jennifer observed, with finesse. "Now, let's get down to business. We need an in-house attorney to negotiate and draft all our agreements--everything from research and licensing agreements to the lease on this building. Sound interesting?" Jennifer leaned forward. This was it. She had to sell this man on her. " Very interesting. I've been a contract attorney for ten years, the last few in the biotech arena. It sounds to me like a perfect fit." "Tell me what they had you doing at ..." he pulled a piece of paper on his desk toward him and read it, "Fresno State? Office of Technology Transfer, right?" Jennifer nodded. "Fresno State has a strong research facility. Primarily genetic engineering, with a heavy emphasis on the treatment and prevention of cancer. Our scientists conduct their own studies, but also, as a means of providing funding for our programs, they do a significant number of collaborations with outside institutions. Smaller research centers, companies like yours. I handle the legal end of things, the collaborations, studies, whatever." "Are you the only attorney on staff?" "There are two." It was true; she just didn't happen to be one of them. "I listed Grace Bell as a reference on the application I faxed you after talking to you last week. We have a strong support staff, too. Several paralegals and an administrative assistant." "Sounds like a busy place." "It is. But I like it that way." "This job would be a lot of pressure. We've been farming everything out, but if we hired you, you'd be expected to handle it all." "That wouldn't be a problem. I'm a hard worker. I'm more than willing to put in extra hours, if necessary. Basically, my job is my life." She raised her eyes to his and with no small amount of effort, held them there. "You won't regret it if you hire me, Dr. Fielding. I'm good at what I do." "I suspect you are," Sherwood Fielding said. He was quiet for a long while, his eyes roaming from the resume and application in front of him to Jennifer, then back to the papers. Jennifer shifted in her chair and pretended to be taking in the view outside the window as her eyes searched out the photo at the back of the room. There was no way she could get up to get a closer took--not unless he left her alone in the room, which was unlikely. But if she succeeded in today's mission, the opportunity would eventually present itself. The sound of Fielding clearing his throat drew Jennifer's attention back to him. "Well, Ms. Rockhill, it looks like you've just simplified life for us here at BioGentech. It won't be necessary for us to continue to search for someone to fill this position." He still appeared to be studying her, but finally, Sherwood Fielding's expression warmed to a stiff half smile. "I'd say you're just what we've been looking for." Copyright (c) 1999 by April Christofferson Excerpted from The Protocol by April Christofferson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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