An American epidemiologist quite literally drops into the frozen Canadian north to find out what has caused several scientists to die spectacularly gruesome deaths.
First novelist and Soho Press cofounder Jurjevics weaves his great fondness for the fragile, seductive, polar environment with carefully researched viral lore in a largely successful thriller about bioterror and the pathologists who keep us safe in our beds. Offshore-educated M.D. Jessica Hanley, famous for her intuitive epidemiological solutions, draws the short stick when the call comes from the Trudeau Research Center, which houses a collection of scientists way up at the top of Canada. Three of their number, who had exited the relative comfort of the center’s ecologically sensitive igloos-of-the-future to collect data out near one of the permanent openings in the ice cap, died horrible, sudden and mysterious deaths, and the fourth in their group went off by himself immediately afterwards, stripped stark naked and frozen in a flash. The remaining researchers, understandably spooked, and the Canadian powers-that-be, need someone imported quickly to sort it all out. Hanley has the skills, but she will have to abandon her needy, woefully dyslexic son to the prim management of his self-righteous but always-there dad. Parachuted in at the last possible moment before the Center becomes unreachable in the months-long arctic night, Hanley deputizes a couple of assistants and starts sorting through every last personal belonging of the departed, looking for what must either be a very vicious bacterium, or a virus. What she doesn’t know is that the submariners who tried to evacuate an unpopular Russian scientist around the time of the disaster fell victim to the same plague. Counseling son Joey by satellite, wrestling with major disruptions in her circadian rhythms and succumbing to the manly charms of an unattached Inuit on the crew, Hanley is one busy epidemiologist. But a good one. She has the culprit identified just as some very dashing Russians return to clean up the mess left by their dead colleague.
Lots of very entertaining and very weird science within a workable thriller plot.