STINGER by Nancy Kress


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Another biotech thriller featuring the long-suffering, messed-up FBI agent Robert Cavanaugh (Oaths and Miracles, 1996). Consigned to a backwater office in southern Maryland, his relationship with science writer Judy Kozinski already coming unraveled, Cavanaugh notices a sudden upsurge in the incidence of fatal strokes reported by local hospitals. Inexplicably, almost all the victims are black. Meanwhile, at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, militant black doctor Melanie Anderson examines blood samples from black Senator Malcolm Reading, dead of a thrombosis induced by malaria. But Reading carried the sickle-cell trait, which should have made him resistant to malaria. More alarming still, this “malaria reading” attacks only those with sickle-cell. Cavanaugh’s thrombosis epidemic results from an outbreak of—malaria reading. To Melanie, the evidence adds up to attempted genocide, a theory her superiors reject. She seethes as the CDC and the Army cooperate to stamp out the epidemic. Cavanaugh, meanwhile, has been seduced by his ex-wife Marcy, but only so she can ditch the family dog. Still, Cavanaugh and Melanie ascertain that someone deliberately bred malaria reading as a biological warfare agent—they suspect the secret CIA lab at Fort Detrick, not the too-obvious suspect the FBI publicly arrest—and that their bosses are cynically covering up the whole affair. They’re right about the conspiracy, as it turns out, but wrong about its source. Agreeably understated, impeccably crafted, engagingly peopled, and, this time, the offstage villains are perfectly suited to the swirling, murky atmosphere of paranoia.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86536-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998


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