An ER doc seeks a cure for a virus seemingly targeting African-Americans, which puts her and her infant daughter at risk in Crickard’s (Another Five Patients, 2018, etc.) thriller.
Dr. Sara Sullivan is understandably worried about a rapidly spreading viral illness. The majority of those infected by the virus, called Labrador, have been in D.C., where Sara lives and works. Over 90 percent of African-Americans infected have died, and Sara, who’s biracial (her estranged father was black), and her baby daughter, Elyse, are in danger. After Sara treats patients possibly suffering from Labrador at George Washington University Hospital, the Department of Health forces her into a “voluntary quarantine,” though she’s asymptomatic. Sara believes there’s a cure, which she’s determined to find, especially when it’s clear millions may soon be infected, including Elyse, who’s showing signs of the illness. In fact, someone, rather suspiciously, has had a Labrador vaccine in development for years, well before most Americans had even heard of the virus. Meanwhile, racial tensions in the States are rising: Blacks think whites are getting preferential medical treatment, while whites assume the disease originated in Africa. Sara’s hunt for a cure ultimately exposes a sinister coverup that entails sabotage, kidnapping, and murder. While Crickard adeptly delivers thriller components (Sara dodges authorities after she escapes quarantine), she also shrewdly addresses serious issues such as racism and sexism. For example, Sara is a resilient protagonist who has endured racist comments all her life and encounters numerous patronizing men throughout the story. Even when her cop fiance (and Elyse’s dad), Marty Thompson, uses a pet name, “sweetie,” it’s somewhat condescending. While other similarly arrogant male characters are interchangeable, the women, in contrast, are memorable. For example, graduate research student Veronica Laughlin fearlessly says to a police officer, “Didn’t your mama teach you it’s not polite to point?” The author retains an energetic plot with Sara on the lam and provides a surprise or two as villains and motives come to light.
Strong female characters and social issues augment this medical thriller.