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By James Lilliefors

Soho Press, 2012 ($25.00)

ISBN-13: 978-1-61695-068-2
Kindle eBook: ($9.99)

Reviewed by Sam Waas

The plight of sub-Saharan Africa is appalling. Disease, starvation, lack of even fresh drinking water are common, all this exacerbated by corrupt governments that bleed not only their own people, but suck dry the well-intended UN and charitable funds meant to alleviate the horrors. All this is real enough, and frightening. Add to this a vicious plot to decimate thousands of the poorest via a mutated virus, and you have a suspense novel depicting a world-class nightmare.

In VIRAL, investigative reporter Jon Mallory and his brother, former CIA operative Charles, uncover hints that a shady organization is planning to eradicate much of an African nation's population, all to implement a warped misguided eugenics philosophy and make billions in profit at the same time.

We follow Jon and Charles as they pursue the instigators of this genocidal plan and attempt to forestall its doomsday calendar. No one can be trusted, for the threads of the enemy are strong and deep, and even old friends may be turned against the truth. The search to expose the plot moves from Washington DC, to Europe, to Africa, and back. Layers of deceit hamper the brothers and their allies as the clock ticks toward genocide.

VIRAL is an excellent international thriller. Elements of medical science are combined with espionage and raw conflict to make this novel an exciting read. The author avoids stereotypical plotlines and situations that would turn the story mundane. Instead, the characters are well-defined and interesting, and dramatic events in the story drawn in unique ways to invoke strong impact.

Despite the sharp plot and characters, there is a slight disconnect. The author does not quite pull off the necessary empathic narrative needed to connect the readers' minds with stronger scenes, those of mass murder and atrocity. The strength of description simply falls a bit short. I believe this is due to the author's yet-untempered skill, just not up to the task at hand in this excellent effort. I can only foresee continued growth, however, and VIRAL is still a fine dramatic suspense novel that I can highly recommend.

This title is scheduled for release April 10, 2012. Pre-orders from online book sources are available now.

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