Alex Kava gradually has been getting her rightful due. Those who have followed Maggie O’Dell with regularity and experienced the exponential explosion of Kava’s popularity will be prepared --- almost --- for the brilliance, the excellence, that she exhibits in EXPOSED.
Kava begins the book with a stomach-wrenching vignette that will 1) encourage weight loss and 2) convert even the most hygienically challenged among us into a true germaphobe. There is a serial killer in EXPOSED, and we learn fairly early on that his instrument of death is viral rather than one of the more traditional weapons of mayhem. What Kava keeps hidden is the who, how and why; the answers are revealed with tantalizing, almost agonizing, slowness, even as O’Dell and her FBI associates are running in a race against time where death is the only consolation prize.
The main storyline kicks off with a box of donuts that is delivered to the FBI offices in Quantico, Virginia. Beneath the cream sticks and crullers is a cryptic note threatening mayhem at a specific location. When O’Dell and her team arrive there, they find a mother and daughter who have been exposed to a pathogen of unknown origin --- which also affects O’Dell and the FBI’s Assistant Director. They are immediately quarantined while an attempt is made to determine precisely what it is to which they have been exposed, so that treatment of some kind may begin.
Kava’s very subtle plot twist here is to create the antithesis of the locked room mystery. The door is locked, but it’s the detective who is inside, trying to determine who set these events in motion and why they picked this particular mother and child and gave the FBI a heads-up on it. Armed only with a computer and her own depth of knowledge, O’Dell begins a painstaking and often frustrating search for links that, with the assistance of her team on the street, ultimately will lead them to a destination that they truly never expected. The result reads like a collaboration among Michael Crichton, Agatha Christie and Jeffery Deaver, orchestrated by James Patterson.
Yet, from first page to last, EXPOSED is solid, true Kava. There are surprises --- not all of them pleasant --- with the author leaving some secondary plot lines open at the end to explore in future novels. The core story, however, contains enough revelations and plot twists to keep even the most particular thriller fan satisfied.
Kava has written one of those rare novels that begs --- nay, demands! --- to be read in one sitting. Be forewarned: if you pick up EXPOSED and start reading, you’ll be setting all else aside for several consecutive hours.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 1, 2008