Primacy: A Thriller

Blog: What's the Big Idea?

Tens of thousands of monkeys and apes suffer in animal testing labs. If just one of them could speak, what might it say and whose interests would it threaten?

Researcher Liane Vinson thinks she can handle her promotion to the primate lab at Pentalon, the world's biggest and most secretive animal testing facility. Going along to get along, she'll ignore both the vitriol of animal rights protestors outside the front gates and the cold calculus that her bosses use to distance themselves from their subjects behind closed doors.

But when Liane discovers that one of her favorite apes, a young bonobo called Bea, has shockingly developed the ability to speak, all her doubts awaken--doubts about right and wrong, about following the rules, and about sacrificing individuals to the supposedly greater good.

She'd spare this unique being the knife if she could, but only Axel Flickinger, Pentalon's cold-hearted CEO, holds the power of life and death within the closely monitored laboratory. If there's any chance of rescuing Bea, Liane will need to involve her neighbor, Mickey Ferrone, a rough-hewn veterinarian with his own grievances.

Soon, at risk of life and limb, Liana and Mickey must challenge forces almost beyond their comprehension: a malevolent corporation, a venal federal government, an animal rights movement that's lost its way--and all of our assumptions about man's primacy in nature.

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”Fishman is a deft, fluent writer who’s great at turning out intricate action scenes, and he gives us appealing characters—even the chimp grows on you—to boot…. [M]ore fun than a barrel of overgrown monkeys.” —Kirkus Reviews

An “appealing debut thriller… Those with an interest in animal rights will be particularly enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly

A “magnificent job… This debut novel is a marriage of medical thriller, along the lines of Robin Cook, to fear on a scale you have never experienced, as typically brought to readers by Michael Crichton.” —Suspense Magazine

The novel “starts strong and never lets up. Author J.E. Fishman has an excellent sense of pacing, and while the expected genre conventions are met, Primacy feels fresh and often unexpected…” —

“This is a strong bet for thriller fans.” —Library Journal

“[S]tarts fast and never lets go. …it reads fresh and exciting. Mr. Fishman’s pacing is flawless and the narrative superbly entertaining. The writing style is intelligent and the action sequences are beautifully executed.” —Zohar Man of la Book

“A heart-thumping scientific thriller…”Primacy’s “pace is quick and the writing keen.” —Minding Spot

Combines “page-turning suspense with moral implications.” —Kalkion

“I highly recommend it!” —Popcorn Reads

The story “starts fast and never lets go.” —Seattle Post Intelligencer

“The action scenes were thrilling and had my heart racing to see what would happen next.” —The Novel Life

Primacy: A Thriller

Writing the Book

This book began as an idea but not as an attempt to make a statement about animal testing—for or against. I’ve always been interested to see how humans relate to animals. A child captivated by the beauty of a butterfly or a small mammal often isn’t satisfied to observe it but attempts to capture and possess it, to put it in a jar or a cage. Most of us eat certain animals and many of us keep other ones as pets, yet we shudder at the choices other cultures make. Those who have worked or lived closely with animals sometimes wonder what goes through the heads of beasts, how much they understand of the world, what makes them them.

From this curiosity, over the years a few scientists and social scientists have attempted to communicate with certain creatures, mainly our closest cousins, the great apes. Let us presume that these scientists have the best intentions. But what if an animal—in this case the young bonobo, Bea—mutates for speech and turns up in the worst place of all, a place where animals are subjected to systematized torture? Would the people who run that lab want to hear testimony from her? Would society? And what if the person who discovered her was a young woman, low on the corporate totem pole, with her own troubled past? In Primacy: A Thriller, Liane Vinson faces a moral dilemma not unlike dilemmas that so many of us face in other contexts.

When the interests of an innocent creature diverge from those of the corporation, do I speak up and risk my job, my comfortable life? Or do I keep my head down and stick to “the straight and narrow”? And what will I do when the knives come out and the shooting starts?

Character Bios

Liane Vinson

Liane is in her mid-twenties and acclimating to her independence after a rocky start. She lives in a small apartment with her cat, doesn’t date much, and concentrates on her work. That attitude has paid off in a promotion to the primate lab, the sanctum sanctorum of Pentalon. But Liane hid something about her past to get the job and now she’s become attached to a special animal that threatens the future of the world’s biggest animal testing lab―perhaps of the nation’s entire animal testing infrastructure.

Mickey Ferrone

Liane’s neighbor is a conflicted horse vet at the racetrack. The son of a mason, he always wanted to work with animals, but now he finds himself doubting the morality of patching horses together to keep them running. Then there’s this woman, the beautiful Liane, whose very existence opens up to Mickey all the possibilities of life. She won’t tell him what she does for a living, but when he finds her in trouble, he’ll risk his life to help her anyway.

Dikembe Kasa

Although he lives in a poor village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where many people survive on bushmeat, Dikembe has learned a different way from an Englishman he sometimes works for in the national park―a way that balances traditional with modern in order to preserve the whole. But Dikembe, needing money, did a bad thing not long ago, shipping a pair of special bonobo twins to their doom. With his wife dead, he must set a better example for his young son. He feels so guilty about his transgression, in fact, that he’ll risk his life to reverse the error.

Adnan Hammurabi

Born in Iraq, Hammurabi is the lead scientist in the primate lab at Pentalon. He wrote the rules that govern treatment of animals in the vast laboratory―rules partly designed to keep technicians and scientists from growing too attached to the animals as individual beings. Hammurabi owes everything he has to Pentalon and its headstrong founder, Axel Flickinger. But he also owes much to the apes he has known. As he now grows close to a most special ape, doubt begins to creep in. When Liane decides to save Bea, her actions will tip Hammurabi toward a fateful choice.

Axel Flickinger

Driven by greed and a sense of moral superiority over all lesser beings, Flickinger is founder and CEO of Pentalon. As Liane finally learns, “he cares for the animals like a strip miner cares for the mountaintop,” and he’s managed to exploit them so successfully that Pentalon has made him one of the richest people in America. He will not allow Liane of all people, a mere “child,” to thwart any of his plans. And he holds a trump card over her stepfather and dying mother, just to be certain.

Vlad Gretch

The head of security for Pentalon is a former Secret Service officer who values order over all else. Commanding a vast internal surveillance network, he takes personally anything that imperils the stability of Pentalon, most of all the animal rights activists of FAULT―Folks Against Unnecessary Lab Testing―who camp daily outside the facility’s entrance. Thus a talking ape in the lab poses a danger to Gretch that he can’t countenance, and he’s already proved that he’ll kill if that’s what it takes to restore the balance of power.


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