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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author and master of suspense delivers another novel at the crossroads of politics and medicine in this shocker of a thriller.

On the night of the State of the Union address, President James Allaire expects to give the speech of his career. But no one anticipates the terrifying turn of events that forces him to quarantine everyone in the Capitol building. A terrorist group calling itself “Genesis” has unleashed WRX3883, a deadly, highly contagious virus, into the building. No one fully knows the deadly effect of the germ, except for the team responsible for its development—a team headed by Allaire, himself.

The only one who might be able to help is virologist Griffin Rhodes, currently in solitary confinement in a maximum security federal prison for alleged terrorist acts, including the attempted theft of WRX3883 from the lab where he worked. Rhodes has no idea why he has been arrested, but when Allaire offers to free him in exchange for his help combating the virus, he reluctantly agrees to do what he can to support the government that has imprisoned him without apparent cause.

Meanwhile, every single person in line for presidential succession is trapped inside the Capitol—every person except one: the Director of Homeland Security, who is safely at home in Minnesota, having been selected as the “Designated Survivor” for this event. With enemies both named and unnamed closing in, and the security of the nation at stake, Griff must unravel the mysteries of WRX3883 without violating his pledge as a scientist to use no animal testing in his experiments…and time is running out.

Tense, thrilling, and entirely plausible, A Heartbeat Away will make you reflect, wonder, and be truly afraid.

©2011 Michael Palmer (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

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Average Customer Ratings


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As a critical care RN, I can see this being an easy reality. Americans need to realize how easily this could happen anywhere and anytime. As a work of fiction -- excellant

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Well worth the cost and time. Great Story.

If you could sum up A Heartbeat Away in three words, what would they be?

Entertaining, interesting, and exciting.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Heartbeat Away?

When they discovered the living person from the research trials. It gave hope and continued excitement to the story.

What about Robert Petkoff’s performance did you like?

He was clear, consistent, and showed emotion / excitement without over doing it.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Scientific thriller that could actually happen anytime and anywhere in our present world.

Any additional comments?

Great story line and plenty of excitement.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • William R.
  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States
  • 05-27-11

Far too many holes and a bad love story

Robert Petkoff reads the book quite well, which I enjoyed. He was able to provide some very distinct voices for each character that did not feel forced or too heavy-handed. The book itself is a fantastic idea that I loved at first but the more this book goes on the more giant - gaping - holes in the overall story. I do not want to spoil anything but will say there are times when I just shook my head and thought "Really? Did he really just write that?". The two main characters in the book are great separately but there is a very obvious love story that just was just plain silly and thinking back on it just makes me whince. I am giving this book two stars because I liked the narrotor, pacing and some of the characters but really cannot recommend it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Gabrielle
  • Quincy, MA, United States
  • 10-27-11

Interesting Story - Good Narration

Even though this book has a totally absurd story line, I enjoyed listening to it mostly because of Robert Petkoff's narration. He is very skilled at doing different voices and accents and made it very easy to discern who is speaking. Though his portrayal of the President was way too stern and harsh and I loved when he had the main female character scream! As for the book itself, this was my first Michael Palmer book and I can't say I'm dying to read him again. The idea was a good one but there were many holes in the story and the plot is so ridiculous and outlandish that it is hard to commit to. I had hoped that Palmer would resolve it in a way that was semi-believable - but no luck!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Laurie
  • Florence, KY, United States
  • 10-23-11

What's happened to Michael Palmer?

I could always count on Palmer to write a decent medical thriller. Granted, some of his previous story lines were a stretch, but they were good for a fast paced, decent listen. This book, however, borders on the ridiculous. It's as if he watched one too many episodes of "24", and decided to one up that idea with bad dialog and uninteresting characters. Really, I would skip this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Terry
  • St Bonifacius, MN, United States
  • 06-10-11

Good Listen

First listen of Michael Palmer, the story at times seemed a liitle far fetched but kept my attention the narration was great, love Robert Petkoff.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Neal
  • Augusta, GA, United States
  • 05-26-11

Need a Vaccine for this book

This was an unfortunate choice but what is worse, I listened to all of it. I suppose that the book has some merit to the extent it kept me onboard for the entire time but there were literally times when I wished the book had been just a little worse (so I'd quit listening) or a whole lot better. The real disease wasn't the virus released in the Capitol but rather the shallow characters, predictability and thin plot line.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Heartbeat Away

Good reading and will enjoy it. I recommend it to you - it is worth your time and money.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Barely kept my attention.

This is more of a "medical" adventure with a out of control plague threatening everyone. I guessed the ending way before I should have.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jan
  • Alpine, UT, United States
  • 02-24-11

completely unbelievable

I hate to write a lukewarm review, but I'm sorry to say that I liked this book about as much as coming down with the flu. I don't mind suspending reality here and there, but this book was almost completely unbelievable. I've liked Michael Palmer in the past, so maybe it was just my impatience with the far-fetched details, but I have to admit that long before Part 2 I started skipping from segment to segment just to see if it "grabbed" me somewhere before the end....unfortunately I "skimmed" my way to the gratuitously happy ending. I wish I hadn't used a credit for it....

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Nowak
  • 07-08-14

Heart skips a bit... and never stops

What did you like most about A Heartbeat Away?

Story is really compicated and absorbing. Michael Palmer creates interesting and expressive characters and they all have their own hidden agenda. But at the and every plot is nicely straighten out and there is nothing left unfinnished.

What other book might you compare A Heartbeat Away to, and why?

I would compare it to another Michale Palmer book Extreme Measures becouse it has same kind of confusion.

Which character – as performed by Robert Petkoff – was your favourite?

Yes he does. He creates coplicated story there is a lot of plots so if you don't listen carefuly you may get confused sometimes. But with time acction is accelerating but you have to be patient becouse you need about three hours of listening to really get into it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Nothing I actually really enjoyed it.

  • Overall
  • Lars
  • 02-02-13

Michael Palmer does it again

I am a huge Michael Palmer fan, the king of medical thrillers , so I very pleased to see AudibleUK has now got some more of his books.

Although I'm not at all a big fan of political books, I loved this one. As typical with all michael Palmer , it is a fast paced suspence novel that keeps you guessing throughout.