Labyrinth of Terror

Independently published by Brandylane Publishers for author Richard P. Wenzel (no star rating given for indies)

Labyrinth of TerrorSynopsis (from publisher website): (science thriller; medical thriller) Terror reigns when a string of post-op infections erupts in the sanitized halls of King’s College Hospital in London. A trio of experts—microbiology professor Chris Rose, Jake Evans, an American infectious disease specialist, and Elizabeth Foster, a senior agent with MI5—soon realize that the offending organism is a weapon in a worldwide terrorist plot. The terrorists turn their focus on an upcoming medical-legal conference, hoping to infect hundreds and subsequently ravage the global community, as well as those very doctors who might be able to find a cure. Author and physician Richard Wenzel takes us on a riveting, winding journey through Europe and the Middle East, unravels the science of infections, and opens a revealing window on the complex politics of medicine.

Review: Labyrinth of Terror is a debut novel written by an infectious disease expert who brings cutting-edge medical and molecular microbiology into his story. The set-up is simple: there is an outbreak of dangerously antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcal infections at a London hospital, and three characters with complementary areas of expertise work together to find the source and stop the spread. Early on, there is suspicion that this outbreak is not a natural occurrence. Motivation for the villain(s) is provided by ancient grievances from the Middle East, and author Wenzel spends lots of time going into historical background.

STRENGTHS: Sophisticated and accurate molecular microbiology is important to the plot—but you don’t have to have a PhD to appreciate it. By studying the disease agent, our heroes find molecular evidence of human tampering with the bacterial genome to make it more virulent AND harder to treat. In how many works of fiction can you find Gram stains, pulse field electrophoresis, VRSA, John Snow, univariate analysis, quorum sensing, botulinum and PVL toxin all relevant to the plot?

WEAKNESSES: Labyrinth reads more like a medical procedural than a thriller. Lots of accurate scientific and historical detail revealing how an investigation might proceed but the story momentum is dragged by unnatural dialogue, shifting points of view, and less than convincing relationships and motivations for the characters. And how do the “bad guys” plan to control their creation?

Summary: A topical and factually correct bioterrorism tale suitable for readers who like more tech than terror.

Parent alert: sex

FCC disclaimer: A free e-copy of this book was given to me for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.

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