While investigating a major earthquake in Iran, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist and his graduate assistant learn of a terrorist plot to poison drinking water in this debut novel.
Orsini’s thriller jumps into the action quickly, as Dr. Roger Rogers, his assistant Teresa Marchetti, and Dr. Bjorn Arnarson, a Norwegian science attaché, are forced to make an emergency helicopter landing at a biological weapons installation in Iran. They’re quickly met by armed guards and charged with espionage. While awaiting trial in jail, Rogers is approached by Mustafa, a laboratory worker, who tells him of a plan to contaminate the water supplies of several U.S. cities with anthrax. Mustafa, a member of a group called Soldiers of Islam, helps Rogers and his companions effect a harrowing escape through Iran and Afghanistan. During their flight, Arnarson is killed, but Rogers and Marchetti get away. Meanwhile, back in Mountain View, California, a mysterious Middle Eastern man follows Rogers’ teenage daughter, Julie. Later, someone tries to kill Rogers by running him off the road in Norway, where he’s visiting to pay respects to Arnarson’s family. Soon, the seismologist and his team, with the aid of the Defense Intelligence Agency, return to Iran in an attempt to save the United States from imminent threat. At times, Orsini’s prose offers sharp descriptions: “The application of the brakes rocked the big plane slowly back and forth like a huge rocking chair.” More often, however, the book suffers from stilted dialogue that keeps readers from seeing the characters as realistic and sympathetic: “ ‘Hi, Pam,’ said Roger at curbside. ‘Gosh it’s good to see you again,’ he said while giving her a big hug. ‘Oh, meet my grad assistant, Teresa Marchetti.’ ” In addition, the story front-loads most of the action scenes, following them with a number of events that initially seem relevant but are never tied into the rest of the story. It all leads to an anticlimactic conclusion.
A thriller with an intriguing central idea that could have been more skillfully fleshed out.