Dave Clement, a vice president at Prodeus, Inc., has been working with the Aldrich Institute in using the Portable DNA Analyzer in West Africa; it identifies candidates for a malaria vaccine and ensures that those who are HIV-positive were infected prior to their vaccination for malaria. But Aldrich Executive Director Claire McQuaid may have another agenda; she hopes to include a Trojan horse in the vaccine to combat HIV. The Trojan horse isn’t ready and will kill patients in mere months, but Claire and her colleague Eldridge Perry are only concerned with wiping out AIDS—they believe those who die are expendable. While Dave searches for a way to save his daughter, Liv, who’s contracted HIV, and repair his fractured family, Sheila Stratemeier, the institute’s lead developer for the malaria vaccine, tries to warn anyone she can about the potential deaths of thousands. LiVolsi’s novel, the first in a series of four, is a densely plotted thriller that churns out suspenseful scenes: Civil unrest in Nigeria and Sierra Leone is lucidly detailed with relentless explosions, and even Dave’s racing to Liv’s volleyball game is tense. Characters are refreshingly intricate. Protagonist Dave isn’t a flawless hero; he seems to be an obsessive workaholic. The bad guys are even better; they’re villainized by their actions, but while Eldridge is undoubtedly menacing, Claire is tortured, so mentally distraught by her scarred body that she rejects intimacy. As the start of a series, the book establishes a labyrinthine plot that never quite catches up to itself. There’s much more teased in Book One than questions answered, from the unknown manner in which Liv contracted HIV and the source of her apparent hallucinations to the fates of numerous characters in West Africa.
A terrific launch for the author’s series, but readers may want to have the sequels handy.