With an assist from a beautiful former cop, a more or less dysfunctional Scottish family defends home and hearth against superevil Londoners.
Back to the present after confounding the Nazis in Jackdaws (2001) and Hornet Flight (2002), the reliable thrillmeister again makes maximum use of wretched British weather—a freak Christmas Eve blizzard this time—to thicken the plot as a gang of brutal thieves plan to break into the ultra-secure laboratory owned by pharmaceutical mogul Stanley Oxenford, a wealthy widower. Lovely security chief Toni Gallo, late of the Glasgow police force, has already dealt with one viral crisis: the death of a bunny-loving technician infected with the dreaded Madoba-2, target of a vaccine in development at Oxenford’s headquarters. Toni’s latest task is complicated by her ex-lover, a stinker who drove her from her dream career as a cop and thinks nothing of leaking damaging news to scandal-hungry local telly reporters. She’s also flustered by handsome Stanley’s attentions. Could the 60ish but studly tycoon have a thing for her? The plot races as Toni ponders. Kit Oxenford, Stanley’s dissolute only son, in gambling debt up to his eyeballs, is the thieves’ secret weapon. As designer of the lab’s security system, computer-savvy Kit knows how to get the gang in to steal the vaccine, a service that will supposedly wipe out his debt. He will, however, have to sneak away from the annual holiday gathering of the clan, a large cast including his two sisters, their mates, their children, stepchildren, and significant-other-children. Toni, who was supposed to be on a spa holiday with her chums, learns at the last moment that her useless sister will be unable to take care of their addled mum and is conveniently in the neighborhood when the thieves, who may be after more than vaccine, make it into the lab’s inner reaches.
Follett’s trademark tension and breakneck pace manage (just barely) to overshadow the YA prose.