Epidemiologist and public health expert Scott offers an epidemiological mystery that also focuses on workplace toxicity and political dysfunction.
Mary Campbell, a nurse supervisor for the Communicable Disease Control Unit in the Revere County Health Department, squares off against a mysterious norovirus outbreak that sickens and kills elderly nursing-home residents. Specifically, she investigates what’s causing the erratic patterns of illness that threaten the most vulnerable of the county’s citizens. This novel sets out to reveal just how frontline epidemiologists and nurses respond to public-health crises. Indeed, the author knows her subject well, and her thorough understanding of her subject gives the novel a sense of realism that is its greatest strength. The earnest, intrepid health workers in this book want to do all they can to protect the country against the illness assaulting Revere County, and they’re often concerned with office and public-health politics. Debut author Scott unwinds the central mystery so slowly that little dramatic tension develops; the plot gets lost in minutiae. The author even provides an organizational flowchart to show how Mary’s response team employs a new incident command structure for the outbreak. The story withholds the meaning of the book’s enigmatic title until more than halfway through, when Joe, Mary’s potential romantic interest and fellow investigator, asks about the source of the virus, “When you hear hoofbeats, think zebras, not horses?” A measles outbreak occurs along with the norovirus, and cases of meningitis also complicate the epidemiological quandary for Mary as she and her team try to think outside the box. The story’s many focal points, though, never give the story a sense of rising action.
A medical mystery novel that has plenty of verisimilitude but lacks tension.