Charisma

by Steven Barnes
Release date: 2002
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction, thriller

A powerful thriller of redemption, hope, and courage that overcomes all obstacles.

It began well - an experiment in techniques to teach high-risk children - poor, minority, children - the life-strategies that will allow them to succeed in life. And not just succeed, but overcome the odds and become wildly successful. They chose as their model a man who had done it all - Alexander Marcus; a black man who raised himself up from poverty to become one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in America.

The imprinting is effective. The children are focused, driven. They are inventive, intelligent, and love learning. But there is a mysterious darkness to them - a ruthlessness that is surprising.

Renny Sand first met the children as a journalist covering the sensational trial of a preschool operator. There were terrible charges of sex abuse, but the thing that stayed with Renny was the strange poise and power of a group of eight year old children. That, and the face of the mother of one of them, Vivian Emory.

Now the children are thirteen years old, and one of them has been killed in a mysterious hit-and-run accident. Renny Sands sees the possibility of big story, a human interest story, a story that might jump-start his flagging career. He'll do a follow-up on the preschool scandal; and he might get a chance to restart his love life as well - Vivian Emory has divorced her husband in the five years since he met her.

(updated 2012-03-01)

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