Marine biologist Dr. Mason Rayman is experimenting with gigantism in sea creatures when he accidentally creates a monstrously large sawfish. When it grows so big he can no longer keep it in his Miami lab, he is preparing to have it destroyed when he learns he is being terminated from his position. By way of revenge, he dumps the oversized shark relative into the ocean, where it soon roams out of control, slaughtering bathers at nearby trendy South Beach.
Dr. Rayman doesn't let on that it's his fish responsible for the killings, but someone knows what he did, and she's blackmailing him. He plays along for a while but then decides she needs to be eliminated. Breaking into a lab at his former workplace, he deliberately creates more monster sawfish and releases them into the local waters.
Rayman then attempts to get his job back by stepping forward as the expert on how to stop the scourge of gigantic predators now ravaging swimmers and water sports enthusiasts on South Florida beaches. But his blackmailer will not let up, leading to an ultimate confrontation between woman and beast, and finally, woman and man.
Dr Rayman was given a grant to try and get small copepods to increase in size but when he fails to show progress, his grant is stopped and he loses his office space. He has by accident, managed to grow a sawfish in his care to a huge size. Rather than kill the fish or show it to the research people, he releases the large sawfish into the wild, then watches in shock as the news reports start to come in about attacks on the public.
Elisa's job includes duties like telling Dr Rayman that his funding has been withdrawn and she is pleased to get given his working space when he is told to leave. She witnesses him releasing the fish, filming it because of how strange the incident is and then she challenges him about it. On the spur of the moment, she decides to blackmail him for much needed money instead of reporting him to the authorities.
Dr Rayman is furious about Elisa's actions but is forced to pay her to keep quiet, aware of the consequences if he is discovered to be responsible for the carnage. He sneaks back into his old lab to grow the other sawfish and release them, with the crazy idea of coming forward as an expert to catch them and be the hero. In the meantime his creations are murdering countless innocent people and Elisa sees a chance to get more money from him. Perhaps Dr Rayman needs to take care for her as well as the sawfish.
I like Rick Chesler's books because they are generally entertaining and this one is no different. He doesn't waste time getting over descriptive and just gets right into the story. He also picks some interesting subjects. This is the first time I have read a horror book about sawfish and I enjoyed seeing a new creature being featured for a change. It has the same tension of what is lurking beneath the water that you get in any shark plot and the idea of that saw ripping you apart is as scary as any megalodon! I liked the pacing of the story and the writing was solid.
Ah the characters! Dr Rayman is a bit of a mad scientist with his anger at everyone for losing his job making him place dangerous creatures into the water to go on to kill people. He shows no remorse for those who have been killed or maimed in his stupidity. All he can think about is being famous as the man who stopped the monsters and the resurrection of his career. Elisa's intervention threatens his evil plan. I don't have much sympathy for Elisa. Her first reaction to having video evidence that this man has committed crime and killed people is her own self interest. More people die because of her decision to take hush money instead of reporting Dr Rayman so I was pretty disgusted by her!
It isn't just the actual attacks that are interesting. I very much enjoyed Dr Rayman's hunt the fish operations and the scenes with him sneaking around the labs and scouting where he is to drop off the money. It was a good solid story with a decent amount of horrible deaths to enjoy. If you like your b movie monster stories, you might well enjoy this one.
Read August 2017