So I read this story for the first time as a teenager and actually read it during the winter months in Pennsylvania. I loved the atmosphere of this book and it started my interest in the Salem Witch Trials as well. It was great to re-read my copy again and besides a few pacing issues here and there, I thought this was a solid thriller to read for Halloween Bingo 2019. I won’t lie though that the medical mystery that Cook gets into is a reach although his proposed solutions to what afflicted the girls during the Salem Witch Trials was also brought up via Shirley Jackson when she wrote “The Witchcraft of Salem Village.” I don’t think that the “theory” is true at all and I kind of just hard shrugged my shoulders at it. I consider this more science fiction than anything and thought this book reminded me a lot of some of Dean Koontz’s earlier works.
“Acceptable Risk” starts off with a flashback to the Salem Witch Trials and the soon to be hanging of a woman, Elizabeth Stewart, is accused of being a witch.We don’t know what evidence the man holding the proceedings is talking about, but Elizabeth is accused of also afflicting children as well. Then the book proceeds to the “present” day with one of Elizabeth’s descendants, Kimberly Stewart. Kimberly is a nurse and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kimberly is coming out of a relationship with a dickish resident (sorry he is) Kinnard when she gets set up with by her cousin with a medical researcher, Edward Armstrong. Kimberly and Edward hit it off and start dating. While dealing with that, she is trying to figure out what to do with her family’s old home in Salem (where Elizabeth Stewart also lived) and while there, Edward finds a new strain of something that I can’t even remember how to spell. Through his research, Edward finds that he can use this strain to turn it into a drug that has no negative side effects, but also causes the user to be more calm and confident.
Kimberly is shy and I felt for her. She is overwhelmed in a good way by Edward and quickly gets talked into things she is not sure about. I think that the biggest issue with Kimberly though is halfway through the book she just lets Edward and her cousin walk all over her. I also hard paused at her jumping into something so new with Edward right away and living with the guy. She also agrees to let the medical research company work out of her home and she is starting to have misgivings about the drug. She flounders around a lot and then starts talking to her ex who was the worst from the glimpse of him we get in the beginning of the book.
Edward is shy and him getting hooked on the wonder drug was a good look at how prescription drugs can cause people to become too dependent on them and the danger in taking them. His whole personality undergoes a change through the book.
We get some secondary characters, but mostly just have Kimberly and Edward’s third person POVs. There’s also a mystery going around about vandalism in the town of other things that Kimberly finds that get explained by the end of the book.
The writing I thought was good. Cook has Kimberly researching Elizabeth’s history and the Salem Witch Trials with her trying to find out what evidence the town had to show that Elizabeth was a witch.
The flow though as I said at times gets a big bogged down whenever we get into the medical aspect of things with the new designer drug. I don’t really get anything that Cook is getting into and thought that it seemed beyond strange that Edward and those he hired would just blithely take drugs that had not been through testing.
The setting of the old home that quickly gets overrun by Edward and his colleagues takes a dark turn after a while. Kimberly is having to deal with the fact that the home doesn’t feel like hers and that many of the researchers are just haphazardly treating the home.
The ending felt gruesome to me and I have to say I wonder at how Cook left things since it seems as if this story would be perfect for a sequel. I also didn’t like how things ended for Kimberly since I thought that Cook changed the whole tone of the book up and had to make it into a happily ever after for her. The “It was a dark and stormy night” piece from this book comes to the next to last scene with Kimberly running (from something) in the rain.