The only reason this got 3 stars instead of 5 is because of the lack of romance. I hope Kendra will be an on-going character so her "romance" will percolate more slowly, like Eve & Joe's. But, my complaint is that if an author does something fairly radical- like, say, include no romance when her books have always sold so well with hard-core romance fans for the romantic suspense - then, perhaps, that ought to be made apparent.
I am an old school fan of Iris Johansen. I've read all her books and I came to her via her romance novels. Almost all of her later books are thrillers/suspense with a romance sub-plot. The only exception I can think of, and they aren't totally on point, are her Eve Duncan books because in most of those Eve is totally with Joe, in the later books, so the romance is a few lines. But, then, she has added a few romantic sub-plots for Jane. My point is that Iris Johansen almost always has a romance sub-plot.
On the plus side, it is a fairly decent thriller, totally on par with her prior books. I like Kendra as a heroine. Her talent was unique and interesting. There was no woo-woo stuff to her talent it appeared to be completely organic.
On the negative side, sometimes Iris Johansen's books are a little weird. She seems to like strangely plotted catastrophic dangers- earthquake machines used for presidential assassinations, sound frequency arson ray-guns, fabulous lost underwater cities that only dolphins can find, Jesus' cup, ancient Egyptian medical breakthroughs, mind control water, and that unfathomable Wind Dancer statue. Seriously, I could keep going. This one was a very round-a-about weapon. We never really got an idea how and why the arch villain and his crew were taking this weapon and developing it and expecting to profit from it so much that they were taking on the US Government. Nor, do I recall how the victim test subjects were chosen. It was all so vague.
Also, her psychotic and megalomania-cal villains are usually "The Most Dangerous and Unscrupulous Mercenaries The World Has Ever Known" while her Heroes are "The Most Dangerous and Unscrupulous Mercenaries The World Has Ever Known BUT With A Secret Squishy AND Noble Heart". Adam Lynch was a little strange in Iris' typical universe. He was "supposed" to be this bad-ass master manipulator. That character trait was pretty seriously back-seated as soon as he got Kendra working on his case. Sure, they mention it a lot but you rarely see him using it. Next, he was "supposed" to be a bad-ass renegade cop/vigilante who didn't mind roughing up a suspect or three. Yeah, not at all. He might've threatened a character or two but no vigilantism. He drove a Ferrari- which was mega-weird and out of place. "Yes! I think investigating the disappearance of a FBI agent in the post 9/11 world should be done CONSPICUOUSLY in my Ferrari." What? Finally, and most bewildering, Adam wasn't exactly captain of his own universe. He didn't even know why the Justice Department hired him -an outside consultant- to investigate the disappearance of an FBI agent that the FBI is happily investigating themselves- with their ginormous FBI resources. He came off like a middle-man- not the typical Iris Johansen "I Kill South American Drug Lords With A Sharpie Pen" hero.
Her villains- that was also a little off, for me as well. We had the dumb-as-rocks thugs. Fine. We had an elderly assassin. SERIOUSLY! They kept talking about how old and decrepit the guy was getting. I think he was 67? I know, I know- not exactly elderly in the truest sense. But, it seems to me being an assassin is a bit like playing for the NBA- you pretty much gotta be at the top of your physical game to play at all. And, all the author's comments about the guy's age and general ability pretty much destroyed the thriller vibe. We had a promising shadowy head of corporate security who was nasty and murderous and, then, Poof! He gets killed off stage and is no further trouble. We had a nasty corporate CEO who rarely showed except to give orders. We had the clinically narcissist/sociopathic doctor who was really, really bad off-stage and neither the Hero or the heroine really knew about him. And, then, he was killed about 2 seconds after meeting them. Seriously, the bad guys did most of the work offing each other. Which is fine in moderation, but, in this book the bad guys killed 5 of the seven bad guys. The hero took out one and the heroine took one out. Not exactly a thrilling and epic battle there as the climax of the story.
Despite all the weirdness, you let most of it slide because she keeps the pace pretty quick, the heroes are all manly and romantic, and you get a love story and a Happily Ever After. But not here. Yes, our heroine was maybe grieving and that is a pretty ginormous obstacle to romance. But, she had broken up with her boyfriend long before the book's action took place, so.... romance was possible.
I was a little disappointed. Without the romance, the flaws from the plot, the weapon, and the characters take on more meaning and are more troubling. For me, I like the romance. The plot doesn't have to be so technical. But, if you are going to write a straight thriller, then you might have to be more technical. And clearer with the fine points. I found it really, really irritating that they structured the unfolding of the mystery with these random strangers but did not tell us how those strangers were really connected to the mystery. Why them? Why not someone else? How, when and where did these people become relevant to this story? Was I supposed to assume that the International Bad Guys just walked up to them in a post office line and chose them, got their names and info without their knowledge, infected them, and somehow studied them later? How were the Bad Guys going to keep track of them? You can't explain one obvious victim but explain none of the non-obvious ones. At the end of the mystery, you have to unravel the mystery for the readers especially with murder victims in a mystery!