Deadliest Strain – Book Review

Deadliest Strain

By: Jan Coffey
Reviewed by: Paul McMahon

Jan Coffey is the nom de plume of the husband and wife writing team of Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.  They live in Litchfield County, Connecticut.  They have published 7 books.  Pages 392 and 393 have a final exam on the book and the characters — Jim was a college professor.

The couple spoke at the Tunxis Community College Writers Conference  this spring.  They talked about writing, sharing, how they handled conflicts and dealing with their editors.

The book:

Fahimah has spent over 5 years in the CIA clandestine prison system.  Her defense has been silence — turning herself inward so she could withstand the pressure without losing her mind.

Things are going fine (for the CIA) but are pretty tough for Fahimah.

Then some people arrive at an island on a very isolated lake in Maine where they have rented a cottage for a couple of weeks.  When they arrive they realize that there is another family staying in the second cottage on the island.  They are disappointed since they thought they had the island to themselves, but decide to make the best of it.  They begin to unpack and the kids — teens go to the other cottage to say “Hello!”  It is very quiet.  Too Quiet — they are all dead.  Destroyed by a flesh eating disease.  As it turns out they don’t have to worry about competition for the island — they are all dead too.

In the next scene the island is filled with people in hazmat suits.  All of the dead are wrapped in body bags and packed away to some government lab.

We soon meet Austyn, the protagonist who is an epidemiologist.  The scientists identify the bacteria that is having people for lunch as having the same DNA as found in a lab in Iraq.  A check with the CIA (after a pounding by the president) indicated that they have the person responsible for the Iraq lab in the CIA prison system.

Austyn and Newman, an FBI agent are soon on their way to Afghanistan where Fahimah is now in prison — part of the process used by the CIA is to keep moving the prisoners and time shifting them as well so that they are not sure of anything.

I thought the book was pretty good at this point, but now it gets really good!  Fahimah gradually begins to trust Austyn and vice versa.  I don’t want to disclose a lot because the authors have done a great job of character development.  Since Nikoo grew up in the Kurdish part of Iraq a lot of the story is based on what it is like there — no suicide bombers, no wacko clerics, etc.  The story crosses into Iran with a lot of insight as to what it is like there.

In the meantime small clusters of people are dying in the US — Something seems to set the bacteria off and the realization of what it is is intriguing.

Read it!  It is a well crafted mystery.  No murders or shoot  ’em ups.  The characters are believable and the story is believable.  In fact the Swine Flu came while I was reading the book and a lot of the news seemed to come  right out of the book.

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