containment

“Containment,” by Hank Parker, Touchstone, 2017, 320 pages, hardcover, $25.99

Ebola and Zika caused a lot of concern over the last year. What if a deadly disease is spread deliberately?

“Containment,” a new thriller by Hank Parker examines that possibility.

The story, set in the present, tells of a hemorrhagic disease spread by ticks — or more accurately by ticks bred by Dr. Vector — to carry a deadly virus.

The disease appears in rural eastern Pennsylvania. A farmer and his wife die from a disease that causes internal bleeding and ugly rashes. Then a family dog dies from the disease. Members of the family also contract it.

At first it is mistaken for other, more common diseases. Because the first reported case was in a dog, Mariah Rossi of the National Laboratory for Foreign Animal Diseases (a fictional counterpart for actual federal disease research centers) gets the case. It soon becomes obvious the disease is new, deadly to humans and contagious.

Pulled into the investigation is Curt Kennedy, an undercover agent with the CIA whose specialty is investigating biological weapons. Rossi and Kennedy are paired up because it the disease might just be bioterrorism.

Bioterrorism it proves to be, with links to an Islamic terrorist group in the Philippines. Soon Kennedy and Rossi are trying to track down the folks spreading the disease before they release it around the world.

“Containment” follows two tracks. In addition to the hunt by Kennedy and Rossi, Parker follows the spread of the disease and containment efforts. At first no one realizes the threat. Once he understood the government is faced with keeping out of Philadelphia, close to the initial outbreak in Chester County. Parker describes the measures taken to confine the contagion, and the reaction to those efforts.

Parker writes with authority on disease detection and containment. He served as acting director of Homeland Security for the Agricultural Research of the USDA.

Yet “Containment” is not just a biological procedural. Parker wraps his story in a first rate, and fast-paced adventure. It grabs the reader, and keeps them reading. As a first novel, “Containment” is outstanding entertainment.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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