A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic.
Army major and renowned epidemiologist Frank Slater was stunned to hear he wouldn't be serving any jail time after his conviction for punching a senior officer. The reason soon becomes clear: Right after his trial concludes, the chief of pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology tells him he must select a top-notch team and report immediately to a graveyard in an abandoned Russian colony on a remote island in the middle of the Bering Strait. The graveyard is full of the frozen and thus still potentially infected remains of victims of the Spanish flu that killed millions in 1918. During a recent shipwreck near the island, crabber Harley Vane was saved by clinging to the lid of a coffin he'd just caught in his net, leading the authorities to believe that one or more of the graves had been compromised. But while Slater and his team are making their way to Alaska, Vane is directed by his wheelchair-bound brother, Charlie, to return to the island to see if there is any more loot to match the striking emerald-studded silver cross Vane found in the coffin that saved his life. Little do the Vane brothers know that if the graves are disturbed, a deadly pandemic might be unleashed upon the world. Interposed with the present-day narrative is the story of Anastasia Romanov—the daughter of the ill-fated last czar of Russia, who was given the emerald cross, along with a strange prophecy, by Rasputin himself—who managed to escape the slaughter of her family. Masello (The Medusa Amulet, 2011, etc.) weaves several disparate genres—medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story—into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. While the novel builds to a tense climax, the final act drags just a hair, but the payoff is an extremely satisfying conclusion.
Tense, taut and impossible to put down.