This thriller proves that the cure can be more dangerous than the disease.
The soul of this latest medical tale by Bollinger (Satan Shoal, 2016, etc.) is Eric Carter. Eric heads the North Carolina–based lab for Tera Pharmagenics and is creating Fluzenta, the first universal flu vaccine. Eric has sacrificed much in Tera’s decadelong effort to bring Fluzenta to market. His wife, Kate, divorced him, marrying a local real estate agent. In addition, Eric doesn’t spend nearly enough time with his 8-year-old daughter, Ali. But it’s all about to pay off for Eric when the Food and Drug Administration approves Fluzenta. Only the FDA doesn’t. That’s when Eric’s orderly world collapses. The moral compass of Tera, Eric makes plans to appeal the FDA decision while trying to find an alternative use for the research that might keep the company afloat. Unfortunately, Frank Liles, Tera’s CEO, is feeling really pressured because he borrowed money from the wrong kind of investor. So, behind Eric’s back, Frank and Nicole Peters, one of the company’s senior research scientists, concoct an unscrupulous plan to create a demand for Fluzenta. The resulting epidemic gets Fluzenta quickly approved, but then deadly side effects appear. So Eric and Wally Moore, another senior scientist, race to find a cure for this new strain before more people die, including the protagonist’s beloved aunt. In this fast-paced tale, Bollinger does an admirable job highlighting how big pharma and the government often clash. Drug companies spend years and millions of dollars developing new medicine, seeking to meet stiff FDA regulations to protect the public. But in the end, it’s the sick who end up paying top dollar for those drugs that do get approved. In addition, the author skillfully focuses on Eric’s life inside and outside the office; the hero is a well-meaning man who finds himself wrestling with a life-threatening outbreak. Eric tries to maintain the semblance of a normal life, working to preserve his relationship with Ali and a bicoastal romance with Rae Thornton, another Tera executive. So it’s understandable that Nicole and Frank were able to pull off their scheme under his nose. Still, the appealing protagonist keeps struggling to find a way for his hard work and tough choices to benefit humanity.
The author continues his streak of engrossing medical tales with this winner.