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by Jeffrey Anderson
Berkley, April 2005
336 pages
ISBN: 0425199797

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Simon Westenfield, director of Los Angeles Emergency Operations Organization, is called from his golf game to monitor a crisis at one of the local hospital emergency rooms. The doctors contacted the public health agency because of what seems to be four cases of smallpox, which theoretically, has been eradicated.

There are samples of the pox virus stashed in various secure locations, but these samples should not have gotten out of the vaults in which they are kept. Has someone replicated the DNA of the smallpox virus?

Simon tells his assistant to phone all the other ERs in Los Angeles and find out the scope of the problem and then to call the federal authorities in the morning. Two FBI agents come in and chastise Westenfield for delaying. It turns out that all this is an exercise.

But the next time a strange phenomenon affects a Los Angeles hospital, it is not a drill. Fourteen people have unexplained bleeding from the intestine. They feel ill and are dead by the next day. This is real.

Muslim extremists have penetrated the US defenses. For many years they have been slowly contaminating common objects such as doorknobs, supermarket carts, public telephones. The government task force that must discover what the source of the disease is first leans toward a nanovirus -- an artificial, self-replicating disease-causing organism, which would be impossible to stop. If a real virus were to be involved, it would die out quickly and there would be no epidemic.

The action switches from the involved medical center in Los Angeles to the special medical group researching the cause of the disease, to the zealots who have caused the problem. It is a scary scenario -- a medical thriller and a cautionary tale. By overusing antibiotics, we have made even Vancomycin, once the king of all antibiotics, the only one that would work in cases of antibiotic overdose, reasonably useless in cases of drug-resistant bacteria. The title of the book, obviously, is also a pun -- a sleeper cell of terrorists spreading a diseased caused by sleeper cells. This is a very polished first novel.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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