A nasty post-pandemic New York, with plenty of Patrón tequila and cocaine.
Meet Catherine. The daughter of a bathroom fixture heiress and a drug-company whistleblower, she's been "running up her credit card balance, sweeping into parties at Fashion Week, topless sunbathing on the terrace in Positano." Then comes the outbreak of TX, a virulent flu that has killed 300 million worldwide, now barely contained by the government, with all of Newark turned into a quarantine zone. New York is filled with street vendors selling face masks, "propagators" who cough and spit on purpose, and screening centers for the Department of Health. Unfortunately, Catherine's mother spent all the family money before she died, so Catherine accepts a job from a man named Mercer, whose "deep-set teal eyes were like gaudy buttons sewn in their sockets." She'll be working the phones for Pursuit, a luxury concierge service that procures disease-free vacations, restaurant reservations, and such for ultrarich men. But Catherine's been coughing and worries that she's caught the bug, so she agrees to have an experimental anti-viral device implanted in her lower back before she can start. From this point, the plot moves quickly through increasingly violent scenarios—beginning with a disturbing game that involves sitting in the crow's nest of an abandoned upstate motel, doing drugs, and shooting money and pellets at the local proletariat. "The HideAway isn't just fun with guns. It's about satisfaction, power—staying healthy," a creep named Chad explains. Soon, Catherine's on the run from her sleazy employers, desperate to get that weird thing out of her back, with violence mounting to the last page. Antrim's (The Headmaster Ritual, 2007) eerie descriptions of a decaying Manhattan and obsession with smells—"that brown-sugar odor she liked, plus an old, airless funk, like the inside of an old shoe"; "fresh paint and the tart, synthetic aroma of new carpet"; "dried sweat, coffee, and menthol soap"—balance the increasingly headlong narrative.
If Bret Easton Ellis wrote a biothriller.