A string of unexplained deaths points to a septuagenarian Holocaust survivor in this mystery.
In the spring of 2019, Dr. Chris Malone of the Centers for Disease Control arrives in a remote town in Minnesota to investigate a rash of unexplained and largely symptomless deaths. The deaths mirror others in small towns in Idaho and Pennsylvania, leaving 74 casualties in total. Malone is most drawn to “one bizarre fact that stood out from all the rest—all the deaths from three separate sites thousands of miles apart occurred in the same twenty-four-hour period. And then no more. It was…as if someone had flipped a switch.” Malone soon discovers that the deceased were all known drug users, which leads her to a rehabilitation program launched by a company called Tudos Pharmaceuticals. Tudos founder, Jakob Bauer, is a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp where, as a child of only 4 years old, he caught the eye of the infamous Josef Mengele. The altruistic and innovative Jakob has since been ousted from control of the company for not being properly profit-motivated, but could he have something to do with these mysterious deaths? Something that goes all the way back to the horrors he experienced at Auschwitz long ago? Yocum’s (The Eyes of God, 2005) prose has the detailed efficiency of a police report: “Chris could tell at a glance that Pilsner had been in that same office for decades. Tall stacks of journals, bulging file cabinets, and a well-worn carpet told the whole story. It was a familiar tale for most of the pathologists she had met in her career.” The author manages to craft some memorable characters—Malone and Jakob are the standouts—while maintaining a swift pace and a mounting sense of pressure. The use of such dark history as background for what is ultimately a bit of escapism will likely turn off some readers, but those interested in Auschwitz or Mengele may be intrigued by Yocum’s attempts to grapple with the subject.
A well-constructed, Auschwitz-related epidemiological thriller.