Ken Follett is about as non-formulaic an author as I have ever
found. Best known originally for spy thrillers like THE KEY TO
REBECCA and EYE OF THE NEEDLE, he surprised us with THE PILLARS OF
THE EARTH, a medieval saga of masons, bishops and corruption in the
Church. Now, he astounds us with WHITEOUT, as much a story of
family crisis as of world crisis, exploring his characters' inner
turmoil and its ramifications. In his newest tale, wavering
personal scruples thwart any progress in solving the mysterious
theft of a lab animal, a somewhat minor crime with consequences
beyond our wildest dreams --- or, should I say, nightmares.
Follett has a way of creating characters who make your blood boil.
Or make you want to give them a nudge. Or make you want to hug
them. He also has a soft spot. There's romance in him, and it shows
here. In WHITEOUT, you will meet the infuriating and the
Toni Gallo loves her position with Oxenford Medical, a Scottish
research facility. A lot of responsibility rests on her shoulders,
considering the deadly viruses that are locked up in the vaults and
newly developed drug formulas that are housed there. As head of
security, she knows how important it is to design a system as near
to foolproof as possible. So when security is breached at the labs,
Toni braces for the repercussions, the very least of which may
involve losing her job. Worst case, lives --- many lives --- could
be at stake. It all depends upon how Toni handles her job.
Toni also loves her boss, Professor Stanley Oxenford. He is a man
who seems to have everything: brilliance, great looks, tremendous
wealth, and no wife. He also has several grown children, among them
Kit, a greedy young man with a magnified sense of entitlement, a
dangerous lack of conscience and a grudge against his father. He's
just spoiling for a confrontation with Dad.
It is Christmas Eve at Steepfall, the Oxenford mansion perched high
above the shore on Scotland's coast. The entire family plans to
gather for the holidays --- even Kit, who has some plans of his
own. Snow starts to fall, quietly turning the countryside into a
beautiful winter shroud --- and turning the roads into impassable
gridlocks. When vials of Madoba-2 (a virus many times more deadly
than Ebola) go missing, Toni calls on her police background, and
her police friends, to track down the thieves. And, as if the
mounting crisis and escalating blizzard don't present enough
hurdles, Toni has picked up her mother, a rather cranky woman
heading into the abyss of dementia; her bitter ex is the lead
investigator on the case; and a pesky tabloid reporter, who is one
of the very few out on this forbidding night, is shadowing Toni
everywhere she goes.
And then it gets complicated.
Follett fans will rejoice. WHITEOUT is the perfect holiday book to
settle into a deep chair with in the midst of a burgeoning
snowstorm. A real Christmas gift.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 24, 2011