Imagine going on the train headed for home or a night out and not realizing that your life is about to end. A woman enters the New York City subway system, feeling fine and as the ride progresses, she feels tired, sick and has trouble breathing. Well dressed, looking ready for a night out why would this be her last ride? How will they learn the cause, and will anyone report her missing? This case has been referred to the Chief Medical Examiner and they think it is a possible contagious pathogen. Dr. Jack Stapleton is the Chief Medical Examiner on this case and can’t wait to get started on this case that will require autopsies and interesting and unusual results. Meet him and his team Vinnie and the newbie Carlos who is anything but ready and excited to take this on as the autopsy begins and the unexpected just might happen.
Things take on many unusual turns as Jack learns about the death of the woman who was said to have a heart transplant, but the DNA results were shocking and his nature to get answers takes him to an unusual source. The test results and the lab results noted certain pathogens and viruses but was there a contagion that would cause another pandemic like the one influenza one of 1918? The book centers on the identification of a specific molecule that can be perfected created and tailored to search and seek out and alter genes. This is important in the are of pathogens and viruses as we learn throughout the novel and the harm to populations you will learn as we get to understand the case of Carol Stewart the woman who died on the train and her donor James Bannon not related to her but why was the heart a perfect match? Added in there are many other anomalies that will stump him but with the help of virologist named Aretha some answers come, and the result will cause him to go to great lengths to overstep his boundaries and get the answers he needs to stop what has started with this one death a serious pandemic. But what is the virus and what is the cause? However, his wife Laurie Montgomery is the Chief Medical Examiner and every step of the way she critiques his actions, deals with family issues and yet does not see that what he is doing might save lives. She is concerned with her budget and other matters while he takes on the pharma company behind Gene X and he learns about the billionaire that owns it. Coming to see him and asking what he thought were the right questions he learns more about the Carol Stewart, what they claim they are doing to find the cause of her death, claiming it was not some unknown virus and that his samples and tests need to be done over. Jack is even offered a job by the man who owns it and becomes unraveled when he relates that he did an in-depth study about him, his life and his medical history causing him to wonder what else does this man have in store for him and what is his main motive for covering up the cause of the death and then another one happens his way.
When the CDC is notified in a careful way, but his wife Laurie does not want them involved until they learn the truth about the pandemic things get tense between them and their world is about to crumble.
Within this complex plot the story began with allowing readers to understand the rationale behind a successfully run hospital by a rich and powerful Chinese businessman who created this bio technology that would enhance and create positive results with organ transplants. But, as Jack uncovers some unusual findings about the first death and then there is a second one thing take on a dangerous turn. The more he investigates the more Jack follows a trail of lives, deceptions, deceits and his life and that of his family will now hang in the balance as he meets hose behind what started this horrific chain of deadly events.
Several hospitals are involved as we learn about Dover Valley where the first transplant of our first death occurs on a subway train. The next on another train but the odd part is the first victim had no identification on her except tattoos that Jack used as a basis for tracking down her ID and then seeing the name Helen on her leading us to learn that she was the next victim of this virus. Both delivered to Bellevue Hospital and the tattoo leading Jack to Carol Stewart, but the oddity is that there was no trace of Immunosuppressants in her system. Orders are not what Jack takes and stubborn, strong minded and ethical leads him down some dangerous paths. The catalyst we learn is miracle molecule CRISPR/Cas9, which believe it or not can easily be made to be custom tailored to find and see out and alter genes in humans and animals as we learn the truth behind the hearts received by both Carol and another victim named Margaret. All the victims suffer from respiratory distress and die before they reach their destinations or wherever they are when this hits them. Thinking it is a flu-like virus he later learns that is far from the truth. Batting heads, using his willingness to take risks to find the answers and letting off steam by playing basketball with a serious group of players that respect him, but danger lurks where ever he is and with family issues, his daughter’ tentative diagnosis of autism, he uses this possible pandemic as a diversion from dealing with his daughter and a mother in law laying blame on him for family history and belittling his wife for choosing to become an ME other a surgeon. Some information comes to light as he learns that Dover Valley Hospital in New Jersey paid all of Carol’s medical bills, her rent for her apartment was paid and something odd was happening. Wei Zhao is the billionaire that owns and runs the company and holds a double PHD in genetics and molecular biology.
. Imagine getting a human heart grown from pig or another animal. The science behind it is outrageous as the author shares through Wei Zhao that these hearts with the help of CRISPR/CAS9. Using pig organs for human transplantation Wei states is not a wild or way out idea. Jack is appalled, and his reaction is not what this man expected. Carol Stewart’s transplant was done at Manhattan General Hospital, but the circumstances were out of the ordinary and Dover Valley Hospital did not receive their certification yet. Margaret the other patient received her heart from something called a chimera. Creating the mystery behind the true significance of the transplants, the reasons why the virus became apparent, the kind of virus that Zhao identified will shock readers. As author Robin Cook takes his research, his technology and raises the bar far behind what most would expect as Jack is taken hostage and his life is hanging in the balance after ride where he is taken into custody, locked up and the hope that he will survive or be save is next to nothing.
Just who was behind planting the virus and why? How does this revert to the new Chinese Government? Who wanted the transplants to fail and why? What precautions would have saved all the victims if the doctors and staff had preformed one or more tests? This is a controversial issue and the ramifications are many as we learn the how and why but will the person who created the deaths take ownership of the deed and if Jack learns the truth will he use his moral ethics to report it or look away? What about Laurie and her harsh way of dealing with his methods and will their marriage and family survive? This is one book that would make anyone think more than twice, read the fine print, ask more questions before having a transplant because you never know when someone lurks in plain sight and you too could become a victim of a well planted and planned: Pandemic.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Network/MJ magazine
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