Jon McGoran’s Doyle Carrick Series

Jon_McGoranAbout the author:

Born: Philadelphia, PA

Education:  B.A. Communications–Temple University, Philadelphia, PA


Future of the series: The latest book in the series is entitled Dust Up and was released on 4/19/16.

The Simon Review

Jon McGoran’s Doyle Carrick thriller series focuses on the dire effects of genetically modified organisms or better known as GMOs. As a scientist, I have mixed feelings about GMOs as they can have great potential to do wonderful things, but on the other hand could result in serious negative consequences if not properly monitored. GMOs have been around for a while, with the first modified organism being the bacteria Escherichia coli or E. coli and was the brainchild of Herbert Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen back in 1973. It wasn’t too long after that the first genetically modified mouse was created by Rudolph Jaenisch. Three years later, Boyer teamed up with venture capitalist Robert Swanson to create a company that we now know as Genentech with its first commercially available GMO being E. coli modified to produce human insulin and with it the biotechnology industry was born.

For over two decades GMOs were being used to benefit our lives without much awareness from the general public. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s when public awareness of GMOs grew when genetically modified food products entered the marketplace with the introduction of Calgene’s FlavrSavr tomato and crops containing the gene for the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, a bacterial toxin specific to the larvae of a variety of insects.  Much of the fear that grew over GMOs was on the release of faulty information and the public’s growing fear of technological changes.  For twenty years now we have lived with genetically modified foods and have not suffered any major dire consequences, but will that always be true?

One of the main reasons that we haven’t had problems with GMOs is that government regulators have had a watchful eye on the commercial release of these products.  However, in a political climate where government regulations could change at any time, and with a competitively global corporate environment to release a profitable product, complacency could set in and a product not fully investigated could be released that could be quite problematic for either the environment or for our health. 

For the most part, I think that GMOs can do a lot of good and may become a necessity as the world population grows and climatic changes occur. GMOs are here to stay and as long as we do our homework and good scientific practices are in place, we should reap the benefit.  But if corporate greed takes a precedence, and business practices supersede good science then we are looking into problems.

When I first looked into reading Jon McGoran’s Doyle Carrick series, I was concerned that the series would be overwhelming with misinformation on GMOs or have a preachy attitude on the evils of GMOs which would defeat the benefits of having a fictional series that addresses the more negative sides of GMOs.  What I found instead, was a very engaging and entertaining series that addresses realistic, as well as theoretically scientific concerns over GMOs. 

McGoran’s character Doyle Carrick is a Philadelphia cop that inadvertently gets tangled up in a case that involves the use of GMOs.  Carrick is a likable character, with a sarcastic sense of humor and a great desire to see justice prevail.  Carrick himself does not have specific concerns about GMOs, but is more concerned about illegal corporate involvement which just happens to involve GMOs. With the exception of one character, Moose, there is no preaching about the evils of GMOs which I am very glad to see.

With the soon to be released third installment of the series, Dust Up, it is clear that McGoran has come to the realization that there are limitations of having Carrick be a cop and at the same time continue for him to deal with cases that involve GMOs, so McGoran is making some changes at the end of Dust Up to Carrick’s life that I am sure his readers will find quite acceptable as we see the series progress.

This is a fun as well as informative series and I applaud McGoran for bringing forth the potential dangers of GMOs in such an engaging way.  As long as McGoran keeps the facts straight on the science behind GMOs, I will be a fan.  I would suggest reading the series in order.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Down To Zero- interestingly, this is a novella and normally I am not all that crazy about novellas, but this is a fun one mainly because of Carrick’s interactions between his old mentor, Jack Conroy.

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- Drift- this is a tough choice, but I probably like this one the least because of the heroin apple tree problem (see “What about the science?” section)

What about the science? For the most part, McGoran is theoretically accurate about the science but some of it may not be practical.  For example, in one of the novels, there is a genetically modified apple tree that produces heroin.  First of all, heroin is not a natural product but a chemically modified form of morphine. Morphine, on the other hand, is a natural product produced by the opium poppy which means the poppy has the genetic makeup to make morphine but not heroin. So one would think if heroin is not a natural product then it would be impossible to produce a genetically modified organism that could produce it.  Well, a group at Stanford University has proven that is not necessarily the case, as they have developed a genetically modified yeast that can produce opioids including hydrocodone which is a synthetically altered form of the natural product, codeine.  Producing this genetically modified yeast was a monumental task involving a whole team of scientist that needed to insert 23 different genes from various organism in order to get the final results, which was by no means a simple task. Yeast was the organism of choice because of its relatively simple genome and rapid life cycle unlike the apple tree which has a very complex genome and takes years to reach maturation.  Practically, the apple tree would never be chosen to be genetically modified to make heroin, but if it was, it certainly wouldn’t be accomplished by one rogue scientist as was portrayed in McGoran’s fictional work.

The Doyle Carrick Technical Word in Review: ELISA- which stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay and is an assay that any expectant mother has most likely performed, since the home pregnancy kit is an ELISA. The ELISA uses the high specificity that antibodies have for proteins and other molecules as a tool to determine either the presence of a particular molecule and/or its concentration which makes it a powerful tool for life scientist as well as for diagnostic purposes in medicine.

The method works by having a specialized antibody attached to a solid surface (a plate or strip of paper) that binds to a targeted molecule. To determine if that antibody has made a link to its target, a second antibody is added which will also bind to the target. The second antibody has an enzyme chemically attached to it which reacts with a chemical that is converted from a colorless compound to having color. The degree in color change can be used to determine the presence as well as the concentration of the molecule of interest.

In the case of the pregnancy test, the molecule of interest is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) which is a hormone that is secreted by the placenta and will be found in the blood and urine only during pregnancy.

“We will be doing ELISA tests for both the Ebola and the allergen,” Regi announced. – Dust Up

An ELISA at work
An ELISA at work

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: Dust Up with a score of 4.20

Least Favorite in the series: Drift with a score of 3.95

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing, Rakuten Kobo, and Amazon

(Does not include any novels with less than 50 ratings)

Drift#1-Drift- 2013

Listed #253 out of 555 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #61 out of 172 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

Listed #10 out of 42 on Goodreads Best Eco-Thriller Book List

First Line:

The pain was everywhere- in his eyes, his throat, his chest, his head.


Doyle Carrick: Detective with the Philadelphia police department who works on drug enforcement

Nola Watkins: Organic farmer and love interest of Carrick’s

Danny Tennison: Carrick’s partner and friend

Moose: Hired hand for Carrick’s parents who lives in their home

Squirrel: Moose’s drinking buddy

Stan Bowers: DEA agent

Chief Pruitt: Local red-neck cop

The Setting

Philadelphia and rural Pennsylvania

When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he’s inherited in rural Pennsylvania.

Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who’s under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He’s more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don’t want to hear about.

But when the drug bust Doyle’s been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . .

“What drift?”

“Pollen drift, remember? When the pollen from one plant pollinates another plant. You get a mixture. Usually not a bad thing, unless you’re growing something rare, like heirloom corn, or if it’s some kind of GMO stuff.”

Looking for a review of Drift?  Check out:

Between The Covers

Dead End Follies

Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Kritter’s Ramblings

A Bookworm’s World

Book Review Bin

Tom Joyce’s Chamber of the Bizarre

Amazon Rating: 4.51 out of 5 stars based on 48 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: 3.50 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 3.86 out of 5 stars based on 280 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.04 out of 5 stars based on 10 ratings

Total Score 3.95 (Updated 11/21/20)




Dead_Out#2-Deadout- 2014

Listed #505 out of 553 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #40 out of 42 on Goodreads Best Eco-Thriller Book List

Listed #166 out of 172 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

First Line:

Danny and I paused at the bottom of the steps, holding our breath and listening as we looked up and down the dank, dark corridor.


Doyle Carrick, Nola Watkins, Danny Tennison, and Moose

Annalisa Paar: Scientist that works for Stoma

Teddy Renfrew: Owner of an organic farm

Jimmy Frank: Martha Vineyard’s cop that helps Carrick

Darren Renfrew: Teddy’s dad and wealthy businessman

The Setting

Philadelphia and Martha’s Vineyard

A trip to an island off the New England coast—and away from the demands of police work—might be just what is needed to jumpstart Detective Doyle Carrick and Nola Watkins’ stalled relationship. But a mysterious plague is killing the island’s bees. Nola takes a job at an organic farm hit hard by the disease, working for the rich, handsome, and annoying Teddy, with whom she quickly becomes a little too friendly for Doyle’s liking. When Teddy’s estranged father offers Doyle a big payday to keep his son out of trouble until he can close a big government contract—and when Doyle meets Annalisa, a beautiful researcher studying the bees—Doyle decides to stick around.

Stoma Corporation, a giant biotech company, moves in with genetically modified super bees that supposedly are the answer to the world’s bee crisis. As tension grows between protestors and a private army of thugs, Doyle realizes that bees aren’t the only thing being modified. Annalisa’s coworkers start to go missing, and she and Doyle uncover a dark, deadly, and terrifying secret. Things spin violently out of control on the tiny island, and when Doyle closes in on what Stoma Corporation is really up to, he must race to stop them before their plot succeeds, and spreads to the mainland and the world.

“These hives are deadouts,” said the woman in the bee suit, gesturing toward the handful of boxes sitting in her left. A handful of bees bobbed around in the air, coming in and out of the boxes on her right. My skin prickled but nobody else seemed bothered.

Looking for a review of Deadout?  Check out:

Tom Joyce’s Chamber of the Bizarre

Curled Up With A Good Book

Amazon Rating: 4.94 out of 5 stars based on 20 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 3.85 out of 5 stars based on 114 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Total Score 4.01 (Updated 11/21/20)




Down_to_zero#2.5-Down to Zero- 2016 (A Novella)

First Line:

The rotted porch sagged under the weight of the five agents crouching at the ready.


Doyle Carrick, Nola Watkins, and Danny Tennison

Jack Conroy: Carrick’s mentor

The Setting


When a beekeeper removing hives from an inner city warehouse is greeted with gunfire, Detective Doyle Carrick is called in to help aging mentor Jack Conroy catch the shooters. Although a previous case involving genetically modified bees has made Doyle the closest thing to a bee expert the Philly PD has, it’s a subject he wants nothing to do with. But Doyle owes Jack plenty of favors. Soon, the pair are clashing with foreign agents, corporate security agents, and lowlife thugs while tracking the mysterious bees across the city. As they work to figure out why these bees are worth killing over before the shooters can strike again, Doyle finds himself racing against a clock he could never have imagined.

Amazon Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.17 out of 5 stars based on 6 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.30 (Updated 11/21/20)




Dust_Up#3-Dust Up- 2016

Listed #463 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #128 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

First Line:

At the first knock, I was fully awake.


Doyle Carrick, Nola Watkins, and Danny Tennison

Ron Hartwell: Murder victim

Miriam Hartwell: Ron’s wife who is suspected of murdering him

Regi Baudet: Deputy Health Minister of Haiti and friend of Miriam Hartwell

The Setting

Philadelphia and Haiti

Detective Doyle Carrick is drawn into a plot that begins literally on his own doorstep and unfolds explosively on an international scale. Carrick and his girlfriend, Nola Watkins, are awakened in the middle of the night to find Ron Hartwell, a complete stranger, shot dead on their front steps, and Ron’s wife Miriam speeding away. A halfhearted homicide investigation labels the murder a domestic dispute, with Miriam the sole suspect. When Doyle finds out the Hartwells both worked for the same giant biotech company—and that company, Energene, is now accusing them of corporate espionage—he begins to look deeper. But it’s not his case, and under pressure from his superiors, he tries to let it go. Then Miriam tracks him down and tells him her story.

Miriam and Ron had been working in Haiti and visiting her friend Regi Baudet, the deputy health minister, when they stumbled upon a mysterious illness that sickened an entire village. What appeared to be a corporate cover-up of tainted food aid began to look like something far worse. She tells Doyle that all the official channels were too cozy with Energene. He was their last hope to blow the whistle. Before she can tell him the rest, they are attacked by gunmen and Miriam disappears once again. Doyle finds himself following her to a Haiti on the brink of political chaos.

With characteristic humor and intelligence, Carrick works with Miriam and Regi to untangle a plot involving whistleblowers and corruption, shadowy activists and deadly diseases, and the destabilization of foreign governments, as multinational corporations collude and compete, heedless of the devastating consequences for those caught in the middle. Together, they must penetrate layers of deceit, greed, and corruption to prevent an epidemic of even greater evil before it is released onto an unsuspecting world. But Doyle alone must confront his growing disillusionment with a world where petty offenses draw brutal consequences while crimes against humanity too often go unpunished.

“You’re lucky I don’t have you all shot and fed to the sharks, mate,” Pearce said with a snort. “That’s what I ought to do, and I have half a mind to at that. Lucky for you, I’m a businessman, and I know this is just business. I’m not going to forget this little dust up, but I’m not going to let it interfere with my plans…”

Looking for a review of Dust Up?  Check out:

Dead End Follies

Out of the Gutter

G. Robert Frazier’s Adventures In Writing

My Bookish Ways

Amazon Rating: 4.81 out of 5 stars based on 14 ratings

Rakuten Kobo Rating: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.05 out of 5 stars based on 56 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.50 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Total Score 4.20 (Updated 11/21/20)