Lynch brings the biomedical Armageddon of Carriers (1995) horrifyingly closer to home in this search for a magical antibiotic. Something is wrong in Los Angeles's Willowbrook Medical Center--something that's making patients who've come in with routine problems (minor stab or gunshot wounds, food poisoning) develop grisly secondary infections whose toxic agents, resisting every known antibiotic, kill them in a matter of days. ``Culture Vulture'' Dr. Lucy Patou, the chief of Infection Control, certain that the problem is in the hospital's procedures, wants the staff to scrub longer, wear more layers of protective clothing, and submit to ever more invasive screenings. But Dr. Marcus Ford, director of the Trauma Unit, fears that the infection's coming from outside--that the Watts neighborhood is seething with antibiotic-proof infections that for some reason are blossoming in his clinic. A conversation at a conference where he's gone to rail against the opportunism of pharmaceutical companies who recklessly breed resistant infections by overpublicizing antibiotics and fighting their regulation puts Ford in touch with former Helical biochemist Charles Novak and Stern Corporation marketer Helen Wray, who sound sympathetic (in fact, Ford ends up in bed with Wray, she's so sympathetic). But before Ford can track down the all-powerful new antibiotic called Omega, which Helical developed before Stern bought them out, Ford's teenaged daughter comes down with a galloping infection that lands her in his own unit--except that it isn't his unit anymore, because Patou's got him suspended as a sop to the city's panic about Willowbrook's safety. As the Helical team and Stern bicker over Omega's fate, the death toll rises ominously, especially among Helical alumni. Tracking all-too-real current medical fears and policy disputes, Lynch turns them all into swift-moving heroics while avoiding spuriously simple real-world answers. The only downside: a doomsday scenario that may strike too close for people with sore throats. Maybe this thriller should be available only by prescription.