Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Two years ago, a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm.
"This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before.
"This was a disease that people actually wanted.
"Victims of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus.
"Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed.
"It became known as The Beauty.
"The Beauty quickly became a fad.
"Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.
"The only downside appeared to be a slight constant fever, but that didn't seem to slow people down.
"Now, over half the country's population has The Beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it."
Which is where our story begins, followed almost immediately by the apparent spontaneous combustion from the inside out of someone rather pretty on the subway.
Ah, so there might just be at least one more teensy-weensy downside to The Beauty than everyone thinks! Consequently, the cops are dispatched to investigate, including the dashing and debonair, virus-free Detective Foster. Sure he has a few grey hairs and some laughter lines, but he's ruggedly handsome, and completely devoted to his equally naturally lovely wife.
His professional partner, meanwhile, Kara Vaughn, has been virally enhanced to statuesque, goddess-level looks, but she's actually one of the few people who managed to contract the virus unwittingly, and would rather she hadn't. Particularly once the forensics expert has given them the run down on what she thinks killed their subject, before agents from the Centre for Disease Control swoop in and quarantine the scene. It's enough for Foster to draw his own conclusions...
"It was The Beauty. The Beauty killed her, and they know it."
Still, the why and the how, that remains unexplained, and so our cops do what they do best, and start running down leads on anti-Beauty terror cells - the type of people who might have the inclination to want to induce some temperature-based terror in the more glamorous half of the population. One such lead results in a shoot out with a suspect, requiring some prompt and messy - but ultimately unsuccessful - medical assistance from Detective Foster. After another yet late night on the job, and another missed dinner date with his doting wife, he's more than happy to hit the sack, but his wife wants to share a tender moment or three before they fall asleep. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up in the morning, feeling twenty years younger. He looks it too. Oh dear. I guess The Beauty might suddenly not just be sexually transmitted... Maybe...
Excellent speculative fiction premise, plus our leads are well written, I can certainly see some potential for sidebar drama. Is Detective Foster's wife really going to believe the excuse for his - and presumably by extension her own - unexpected midnight makeover? Especially with that hot partner who's prone to calling him up at all hours of the day and night. I think he might well have to earn his detective corn just to save his marriage, never mind half the population! Still, at least he's got a real incentive now, what with being a ticking time / sex bomb himself!
Great art too from Jeremy Haun, including a fabulous cover. I can see strong hints of Michael LAZARUS Lark in there, though obviously with softer colours here.