Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plague Maker

Plague Maker by Tim Downs

July Fourth: New York City

Hundreds of thousands line the banks of the East and Hudson Rivers awaiting the nation’s largest fireworks display. Soon the sky will explode in cascading showers of silver and gold. Everywhere, faces will turn skyward in wide-eyed wonder.

Then the sky will grow dark again—but it will not be empty. The air will be filled with clouds of smoke and specks of debris will rain down everywhere. Some will pick bits of paper from their children’s hair. Some will brush away still-burning sparks or embers. And some will absentmindedly scratch at the tiny, biting specks that dot their necks and arms.

Will the beginning of the show mark the beginning of the end?

That’s what FBI agent Nathan Donovan must decide. When he is forced to enlist the help of ex-wife Macy Monroe, an expert in the psychology of terrorism, the fireworks really begin—but she may be the only one who can help him stop the Plague Maker in time.

--Plague Maker by Tim Downs, Copyright ©2006 by Tim Downs, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers

My Review

The story begins with our troubled hero, Nathan Donovan, FBI Agent and loose cannon, having a bad dream and then speaking with a psychiatrist about his “issues.” Take the scenes for what they’re supposed to be, a peek into our protagonist’s state of mind, then we can get started with the story.

Donovan is called to the scene of a murder. It normally wouldn’t be under the realm of an FBI Agent, more like the NYPD, but Donovan is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, partnered with an NYPD detective. The murder in question seems common enough, but it’s the presence of thousands of xenopsylla cheopis, or Oriental rat fleas, that elevate the murder to terrorism status. You see, the Oriental rat flea is not common to New York City. It also carries the bubonic plague.

When the story makes the papers, Donovan receives a call from a Mr. Lee in England. The newspaper mentioned the fleas, which caught Mr. Lee’s attention. Donovan agrees to meet with him and he’s mildly surprise to find out Mr. Lee is actually Mr. Zhong Ren Li, born in China but residing in England. Li tells Donovan, thanks to the newspaper article, he knows who’s ultimately responsible for the murder and he needs Donovan’s help to find him. It’s his life’s mission, you see, to track down Mr. Sato Matsushita. Why? Because Matsushita is the man responsible for his wife’s murder. And why is Matsushita sending fleas carrying the bubonic plague to the United States? Because it’s Matsushita’s life’s mission to pay the U.S. back for killing his little sister, Emiko, during the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. He’s chosen the perfect day and the perfect method for extracting his revenge.

The Fourth of July fireworks display over New York City.

With the help of Dr. Macy Monroe, Nathan’s ex-wife, can the three of them find Sato Matsushita and stop him from carrying out his twisted plan of revenge?

This story is exquisitely researched with an attention to detail that really brings the story alive. I’m amazed at all the research Tim Downs must have done in order to tell the story with so much detail, and to present that information in such a way that doesn’t bore the reader. It’s not difficult to read or understand at all and the pacing is excellent. I enjoyed it so much that when I went to the Green Valley Book Fair yesterday and found another of his books, Ends of the Earth, it went into my shopping basket without hesitation. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get to it because I have so many books to read, but hopefully it’ll be before the end of the year.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

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