Following two nonfiction books, James Lilliefors makes a terrifyingly realistic thriller debut with VIRAL.
Cagey Charles Mallory is a private intelligence contractor. His firm, D.M.A. Associates, has an equally secretive meaning. DMA is sort of a private sector SEALs group of good-hearted mercenaries, in the vein of John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave series. Charlie’s brother, Jon, is an investigative reporter who resents Charlie for not being in his life for the past decade --- and not attending their father’s funeral a few months before. For the greater good, Charlie has his reasons. If he directly contacts Jon, he’ll appear on a surveillance grid operated by The Administrator.
"Lilliefors’ new series is more than a good story --- it’s a “New Paradigm” for thrillers, one in which readers will eagerly look forward to more of the brothers Mallory."
As children, the Mallory brothers were inseparable and amused themselves with deciphering cryptic messages. When Jon receives a mysterious set of numbers and letters, he cracks the code and heads to Africa.
An ill wind blows in the obscure African nations of Sundiata and Mancala, bringing to mind the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak that killed 40 million people. Jon has “to be a witness to something that hasn’t happened yet,” though he has already seen “Piles of bodies, many of them bloated.” Charlie needs Jon to make the media aware of “Viral properties in aerosol form, stored in four hundred gallon tanks” to be used horrifically for “humane depopulation,” another term for biological genocide.
The premise is simple: Use crop duster airplanes to spray a virulent synthetic virus during the night to eliminate millions of impoverished people and turn the land into a “New Paradigm. A model nation, energy self-sufficient. A nation with no poverty, virtually no crime.” The question begs: What if a terrorist organization used such engineered viral properties to “humanely depopulate” New York City?
Many nefarious characters populate the pages as the Mallorys jet from Washington, DC to Europe, Africa and the Mideast. Death, kidnappings and atrocities lurk in each location as they use nanotechnology and James Bond-like devices to untangle this web of terrorism.
Journalist Jon Mallory’s POV observation is spot-on for this novel: “When a good story gathered momentum, it became a kind of living organism.” Lilliefors’ new series is more than a good story --- it’s a “New Paradigm” for thrillers, one in which readers will eagerly look forward to more of the brothers Mallory.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on April 19, 2012