Juris Jurjevics is, in a sense, the man behind the curtain. He is the co-founder and publisher of Soho Press, whose intricate, well-written mysteries are set in exotic locales and peppered with unusual characters. As expected, THE TRUDEAU VECTOR --- Jurjevics's initial excursion into the world of authorship --- possesses these elements, and more.
A Canadian research center whose international team is ensconced in a remarkable but fragile ecosystem is rocked by the deaths of four of its members. Three are found in impossibly contorted positions, their irises and pupils erased, while the fourth inexplicably committed suicide by giving himself over completely to the frozen environment outside. Dr. Jessica Hanley, a quirky but brilliant epidemiologist, is sent to determine and isolate the cause of each death. These tragedies coincide with the departure of another member of the team, a Russian scientist who is picked up by submarine from her home country; unbeknownst to the world, except for Russia, the vessel is lost.
Admiral Rudenko, a mothballed Russian naval officer, is roused out of quasi-retirement to lead an expedition to find it. The mission is a success but a horrid one: the sub is discovered though all the passengers are dead, exhibiting the same symptoms that afflicted the three research team members.
THE TRUDEAU VECTOR proceeds along these two, slowly converging tracks, with the principals of each unaware of the other. Hanley wants to interview the Russian team member who left on the day of the killings, not knowing that she has been the victim of the same malady aboard the submarine. Meanwhile, Rudenko, who is unaware of the deaths at the research center, is sent there to pick up the remaining Russians.
Jurjevics's pacing is nothing short of marvelous; he is in no hurry here, but his narrative is anything but plodding. His unseen and unknown microbiotic serial killer could strike again at any moment, which increases the tension factor one-hundredfold. He also peppers his story with marvelous little factoids, the product of which is obviously yeoman's research, yet these items never get in the way of his story or characters. Hanley would be a necessary irritant in lesser hands; here, one actually begins to like her, partly due to her brilliant intuitiveness as she assembles the minutiae of the scene of the deaths (and the lives) of the four victims. It is Rudenko, however, who almost steals the show. Sturdy, dependable and gruffly likable, he is a knowing, underestimated pawn in a much larger game.
THE TRUDEAU VECTOR creates a bit of a conundrum. Jurjevics's debut is the stuff of wonder and immediately leaves one wishing for more --- though not at the cost of losing his guiding hand at Soho Press. If somehow the reading public could continue to have the benefit of both, it would be a blessing. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011