by Ken McClure
(very good; top 50% of SciThri)
Year published: 2007
Category: science thriller; series (#6)
Tech rating (out of 5):
Ex-Special Forces physician Steven Dunbar investigates atrocities committed by animal rights activists who break into a research institute that studies influenza, release laboratory monkeys, and brutally murder a scientist. But evidence mounts that this wasn’t the work of animal rights extremists. Could someone be trying to resurrect the pandemic flu of 1918?
The Lazarus Strain is a British import by bestselling Scottish writer (and scientist) Ken McClure, billed as “Scotland’s Michael Crichton”. The story features McClure’s heroic series character, Steven Dunbar, a physician and also ex-Special Forces soldier (handy skill set for a thriller protagonist!). Dunbar is employed by a top-secret British government agency called the Sci-Med Inspectorate. He’s a typical hero type: likes fancy cars, lives alone after the tragic loss of his wife, is daring, smart and generally disrespectful of authority, always has a witty retort no matter how extreme the situation.
The book begins with a fairly lengthy prologue on influenza, which isn’t really a prologue (past events before the story begins) but a miniature lecture by the author on the history and science of the flu virus and vaccine. The plot then unspools in a logical, linear fashion (as if written by a scientist, you might say). Pacing is good, tension grows as secrets are revealed—once we learn more about those escaped monkeys, we know they must be found! When three suspected al-Qaeda operatives are found dead at a makeshift bioweapons lab, Dunbar probes ever deeper into the mystery of whodunit, and why. Car crashes, secret identities, betrayal, and a plot to destroy the world all culminate in an exciting ending that perhaps isn’t quite as surprising as the author intended.
All in all, The Lazarus Strain is a well-crafted, easy read that doesn’t break any rules of the genre and teaches a bit about flu. Improbable events stay in the realm of believability.
If you like this book, you might enjoy: The First Horseman by John Case
Ken McClure’s Steven Dunbar series:
Donor (1998); Deception (2001); Wildcard (2002); The Gulf Conspiracy (2004); The Eye of the Raven (2005); The Lazarus Strain (2007); White Death (2009); Dust to Dust (2010)