plaguemaker reviewBetween anthrax and bird flu, viruses are big news these days, which makes the virus thriller more potent than ever. Case in point: Tim Downs’ third novel, PLAGUEMAKER. Five years ago, its premise would seem silly and far-fetched; nowadays, it seems like a “just a matter of time” scenario.

Desiring payback for the atomic bomb that killed his sister back in World War II, a Japanese madman named Matsushita plots the release of a biological weapon over New York City via a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. FBI agent Nathan Donovan is tipped off to the terrorist’s plans by an elderly Chinese man. This Mr. Li has his own reasons for revenge on Matsushita, and only agrees to disclose what he knows if Donovan promises to take him along on the search. Reluctantly, he does.

Because of the psychological nature of hunting such a criminal who threatens to unleash a horror more devastating than the Black Plague, Donovan is forced to work with his ex-wife Macy, an international relations professor at Columbia. Though the trappings of the genre lead their relationship down the road toward repair as you would expect, their dialogue (and banter) is more realistic than one usually finds in thrillers, and it grounds the work.

So do the scientific details of the crime, from fleas to flammables, well-researched and spelled out in an entertaining, Crichton-esque manner. Though lots of virus novels take great pains to do the same, few have the tightly wound plot going for them as Downs does here. The speed is close to breakneck, and the tension – particularly in the final 100 pages, where that kind of thing counts – is as palpable as its story is plausible. The result greatly outshines more high-profile virus thrillers of late, like SLATEWIPER and THE XENO SOLUTION.

Though you wouldn’t know it by description, PLAGUEMAKER falls into a relatively new niche market called “evangelical fiction.” What does this mean? In this case, that you get a reference to David and Goliath and a character with faith who’s not portrayed as a nutjob, so don’t think that label suggests something of less quality, where the story takes second chair to a sermon. There’s also no profanity and no sex. But with as much action and suspense as are going on here, you won’t miss them. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by ttzuma
2006-03-11 07:43:46

I must be a bit slow Rod. I clicked on the title above your review to find out more on the publishing details of this book but all I get is this comment page. Is this a mass paperback? What did I do incorrectly? Thanks.


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Comment by Rod Lott
2006-03-11 08:59:06

Clicking on the title of any post (next to the leaf icon) will take you to that post’s individual page, complete with comments.

Clicking on the book’s title within the review will take you to Amazon or another page with more information. Additionally, the “buy it” link at the bottom will also take you to that page.

To answer your question, though, this is a hardcover.

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Pingback by Takedown » Bookgasm
2006-05-25 06:58:35

[…] After PLAGUEMAKER, this is the second novel I’ve read this year involving terrorists planning a horrific attack on our nation during the Fourth of July weekend. (Is no holiday sacred?) In this book, however, they actually succeed, which it what kicks off the near-non-stop action. The hero for the duration of your ride is Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL who now spends his time thwarting threats to U.S. soil from abroad, as part of a covert, counterterrorist agency called the Apex Project – think CTU, but off-the-grid. He and his pals skip all over New York City hunting down suspected al-Qaeda members, and one of the plot’s masterminds is a Scottish dwarf known as “the Troll” (Warwick Davis, call your agent now). […]

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Pingback by Head Game » Bookgasm
2007-01-30 07:45:37

[…] With this and last year’s sleeper PLAGUEMAKER, Downs proves himself as a reliable supplier of page-turning suspense. Like the terrorist setup of PLAGUEMAKER, he’s quite good at taking “ripped from today’s headlines” themes and turning them into total entertainments, rather than exploitative, scare-your-pants-off fear machines. […]

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