A rusted, dented, dirty-white Toyota passes under a streetlight in a small town in Southern Oregon. A hulk of a man exits, leans on a cane, and walks crab-like down the sidewalk toward Ted Whitaker. It's Harry, Ted's best friend from the 60s, a man he hasn't seen in thirty years. Surely this meeting isn't mere coincidence, so what does Harry want with Ted?
Ted soon discovers that Harry, once an extreme radical, has become an eco-anarchist and terrorist. He has come to recruit Ted to join his plot to release a virulent form of smallpox with no known antidote. There's no chance of that happening, so it's up to Ted to stop Harry.
This could have been a much better book. What spoilt it for me was the lack of scientific plausibility or accuracy. I couldn't believe that someone who had studied biochemistry 30 years before could set up a lab of the quality suggested, with pressure differentials and airlocks, in a standard US style trailer. I wouldn't be convinced that spraying someone with disinfectant from a garden sprayer would kill the smallpox virus. I'm no expert but I don't believe that there is such a thing as an antidote to a virus. It's the wrong concept, surely? And I was deeply irritated that having said that smallpox has a 30 percent death rate they then accepted that "thousands" could die if the virus were released. Billions, surely. And there was absolutely no sensible thought given to what this meant. Finally, the end of the book was utterly perfunctory.
I like Joe Barratt's voice normally but I thought it made the subject matter sound a bit too cosy.