Bioterrorism and ancient Mayan folklore come together in this lengthy but entertaining second thriller from Medler (Quatrain, 2011).
History professor Charlie Winston’s quest to find out who really was the first European to discover America (hint: it wasn’t Christopher Columbus) takes him and a motley crew of would-be adventurers to a remote Central American island, said to be home to the legendary cure-all fountain of youth. John Morse, the ever-inquisitive Nostradamus scholar and star of Medler’s previous work, and his rapping California boy son—“We go to the island, and we’re havin’ quite a ball / ’Til we find all these heads, see the natives killed ’em all”—are once again along for the dangerous ride. Meanwhile, Winston’s wife, Murielle, who’s also a top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist, is knee deep in the fight against a new airborne strain of the deadly Ebola virus now in the hands of twin terrorists out for revenge against the U.S. and the Netherlands for their roles in the Bosnian War. The World Cup in Brazil and its thousands of soccer fans in attendance are at the center of the wicked scheme. The third-person narrative manages to weave together their stories and dozens of others—from CIA agents and a Mexican drug lord to Tanzanian children, Brazilian police, Michigan vacationers and more—while crossing continents and centuries to create a fast-paced page-turner that’s hard to put down. It’s this intriguing tangle of plots that allows the novel to get away with a rotating cast of two-dimensional characters. When the book delves into the journey of explorer John Cabot, Columbus’ contemporary, the conversational 21st-century narrative distracts from his 15th-century scenes. Desire to learn how all the pieces of this excellently crafted puzzle fit together is what ultimately keeps readers breezing through to its satisfying conclusion.
An action-packed, easy-to-read and timely novel that might make readers wash their hands a bit more often.