Viral, by James Lilliefors. Soho Press. 353 pages. $25.00.
This elegantly complex thriller is devastating in its premise and astonishing in its meticulous plotting. James Lilliefors asks us to imagine something almost inconceivable: altruistic biological genocide. A multi-billion dollar scheme is afoot to “depopulate” failed African nations, obtain land rights, and construct technological meccas – models of economic and social stability. It’s a scheme at once horrifying and brilliant, designed to anticipate and squelch any challenge to its success. Of course, it is cloaked in secrecy. And maybe it’s not so altruistic after all.
The means involve the controlled release of a fast-acting virus in selected population centers, and the overnight burial of the millions of deceased. There would be little to witness. The planners have thought through how to manage the damage control for the severe flu-like epidemic that comes and goes in hours.
Brilliant planners, with almost unlimited resources and unparalleled surveillance systems, scheme to limit the information that reaches the public about what they’re up to. Journalist Jon Mallory, fed information by his brother Charles, is making waves with what he manages to get into print.
Charles, who heads a private intelligence firm with a handful of skilled specialists, is determined to thwart this scheme. He presses to find out who is involved, how they communicate, where they are located, and what technologies and cadres of workers they have set in motion. Most importantly, he determine the time, location, and method of the virus’s release – and to stop it from happening. Second best: control the antidote.
Charles is following up on some suspicions hinted at by his late father, whose plan of action included bringing Jon’s investigative and writing skills to bear. The Mallory men are a strange bunch: their relationships are strained yet respectful. One of the novels fascinations is seeing the process by which Charles and Jon collude at a distance that is both tactically necessary and true to the nature of their distinctive, contrasting personalities.
James Lilliefors enhances our curiosity about each by alternating which brother is a chapter’s central consciousness . While we are waiting for them to undermine the grand scheme, we are also waiting for them to move closer together. Suspense builds as each man’s isolated story line is interrupted at a crucial juncture, held in abeyance until the other brother’s story line is developed further, and then continued. There is always some piece of knowledge just out of reach that once obtained only raises a new question. . . .
To read this review in its entirely as it appears in the April 25, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the Naples edition for April 26, click here: Florida Weekly – Viral 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Viral 2. It also appears in the May 10, 2012 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition.
To see reviews of earlier Lilliefors writings, click here Florida Weekly – Ball Cap Nation and here https://philjason.wordpress.com/2006/08/02/book-beat-4-james-lilliefors/