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JEFF ABBOTT’s star has been slowly but steadily on the rise. A string of paperback-only mysteries earned the Austin writer a bump up to the hardcover big leagues. His second hardback, FEAR, is a pharmaco-thriller about a clandestine medical clinic (cue diabolical laughter) experimenting with Frost, a drug that smoothes out memories that trigger post-traumatic stress disorder; it has the potential to change lives and make fortunes. When vital research information goes predictably missing, the chase is on, with PTSD patients, government agents, and pharmaceutical types all shooting and clubbing one another to get the miracle drug. Abbott has a genuine knack for the bang-up finish, and Fear crackles and pops to a noisily satisfying conclusion. But his plot points are murky (why exactly was the Frost research conducted in secret?), and the story line is a jumble. Megasellerdom has been oft predicted for Abbott, but Fear is not the rocket to launch him into that orbit.