In Scott's second `high concept` medical thriller (after Skeptic, 1999), a miracle cure goes awry. Likewise the novel.
High concept: a brilliant young scientist discovers a cure for cancer and becomes a carrier for a different dread disease. The love of Jack Collier's life is dying, which is what propels him into Harvard's labs determined to emerge with a lifesaving elixir. He succeeds, but he hasn't reckoned with the villainous Dr. Michael Dutton. Pretending to be Jack's friend and mentor, Dutton—firmly in the main-chance tradition—sees in his student's amazing discovery his opportunity to win a glittering prize: the Nobel, to be precise. Twice he's been shortlisted for it; twice it's eluded him, but not again, he vows. In tried-and-true scoundrel fashion, Dutton steals Jack's work, and then, to protect himself, conspires to have his protégé expelled in disgrace from the university. Jack, however, does not go quietly. He steals back what he insists rightfully belongs to him—the Petri dishes in which microbes have been altered to contain the wondrous formulation. What he doesn't know is that contamination, triggered inadvertently by Dutton, has converted miracle cure into lethal virus, and that somehow he himself has become a weapon of destruction. A mere touch from him and people die horribly, skeleton-ized within seconds. Jack, on the run now, leaves a terrible trail. Headed by one of those crazed FBI agents so useful in genre fiction, an all-out manhunt has been launched, with Jack the object, preferably dead. Fortunately for him, there's a good FBI gal on hand: her belief in Jack is unswerving, and she helps keep him alive for his vindication and the obligatory bloodletting at dénouement time.
High-concept plotting, low-voltage cast.