A page-turning thriller that warned us of the risk of a global virus: Excerpt

In this riveting medical thriller–from the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author–Dr. Henry Parsons, an unlikely but appealing hero, races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees.

Read below an excerpt from the book:


“Also, we can’t seem to get this damn Kongoli to grow,” Catherine continued. “We’ve used chick embryo fibroblasts, MDCKs, Vero cells from African green monkeys, bats, and baby hamster kidneys, but none of the standard cell lines work with this stuff.”

“Where does it stand now?” Henry asked.

“We’re just starting to test it in ferrets and chickens,” said Catherine.”It’s a mystery bug.”

“Maria, are there any other outbreaks that resemble Kongoli?” Henry asked.

“We’ve got seasonal influenzas circulating, both A and B, but they are historic strains, nothing novel. So far it’s been a moderate year.”

The conversation was tense and urgent, but also puzzled and frustrating. Everyone understood the stakes. They were facing what could be the most catastrophic pandemic of their lifetime. It had to be contained, and fortunately, with the exception of the gravedigger, it seemed to be. Unlike during the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where international health workers were murdered by armed militias, in Indonesia workers were protected by government forces. The Indonesian authorities were doing their job. If they could keep the disease bottled up in the Kongoli camp while researchers figured out exactly what it was, the NIH and pharmaceutical companies would work to develop a vaccine. With luck, humanity might slip past this mortal threat. The stray pilgrim in Mecca was worrisome, but he was an outlier. There was nothing to be done but to find him and put him in quarantine immediately.

“Have you produced an electron micrograph?” Henry asked Catherine.

“Yes, we have a negatively stained sample that revealed typical influenza particles, but it was weird.”

“Weird in what way?”

“There were no neuraminidase proteins.”

Henry suppressed a groan. This meant this was not influenza A, and the only flu treatment in widespread use—neuraminidase inhibitors, such as Tamiflu—would be useless. Until now, pandemic flu had always been of the A type. Now they had a new contender, with qualities that had never been combined before. It was a totally novel virus.