Wells delivers a debut thriller about a biological terrorist attack, the people determined to stop it and the woman at the heart of it all.
After the FBI receives notice of a possible terrorist threat in a New York subway, citizens start experiencing flu-like symptoms, beginning with Joey, the maintenance worker who first found a suspicious canister. Soon people who have recently traveled by subway start falling ill. Agents Reed and Strickland’s investigation into possible stolen hazardous materials takes them to Maryland-based Edgewood Laboratories—where assistant lab director Dr. Suzy Chen may know more about the pandemic than she’s willing to admit. Wells opens her novel with the chillingly steady progression of an epidemic, gradually introducing pertinent characters, including Joey; Maggie, the flight attendant who takes the train to work; and Dave and Christina, two doctors at a hospital that starts admitting potentially infected patients. The author develops characters through their relationships with one another—Reed and Strickland’s mutual appreciation of each other’s skills, Christina’s and married Dave’s affair, and, especially, Suzy’s love for Lt. Col. Maxwell Graham of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wells astutely zeroes in on Suzy, her connection to an enigmatic group brazenly called the Organization, and her romance with Max during and prior to the outbreak. The novel provides copious, frankly intimate scenes of the two lovers, but with a residual prudence—proclamations of love abound, with “love words” and “aching” hearts. However, Wells never misses an opportunity to include eloquent details throughout the story; meals, in particular, lovingly itemize foods in a manner that will likely induce hunger pangs. The book is a swift read—chapters average less than four pages each—and a shocking scene near the end draws the story to a worthy denouement.
A tightly plotted, satisfying mystery-thriller.