The Ninth Day
by Jamie Freveletti
Review by Steve Sawicki
Harper Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062025319
Date: 05 October 2011 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Emma Caldridge, biochemist, is in the desert, searching for night blooming plants for the cosmetic company she works for when she stumbles into a human trafficking operation. She was also told to keep her eyes open for just such a thing but she ends up getting too close and needs to flee. Unfortunately, after a long chase, she ends up in the hands of a notorious drug cartel in Mexico.
While there, she finds the workers, slaves unlucky enough to get caught by the cartel, infected with some kind of disease. It's a horrible one that grows quickly on the skin, eating away at them until they die a short time later. She learns that this is not the first group to become so infected. In fact, it's not the second or the third. The disease also seems to be infecting the cartel's main crop--marijuana as well, which is probably how the cartel's leader's mistress got infected. To make matters worse, the cartel leader feels like the US government is behind it all and plans on packaging the infected weed and shipping it to the US including some to the pentagon.
As Caldridge quickly finds out, the disease is highly infectious and goes from initial infection to death in nine days. That's how much time she has to figure out what it is, escape, warn people, and get the authorities to the cartel. But things don't work out as planned and a raid by the Mexican military changes everything. Now Calridge is on the run, with the infected weed, and the infected cartel members, heading deeper and deeper into the US.
This is the third book featuring Caldridge as the main character, and, as I usually do, I will tell you that you do not need to have read the previous two to understand what is going on in this one. I will also note that this book leans more toward the secret agent category than the housewife investigator one. Caldridge is certainly not a normal women either in ability or intelligence and Freveletti uses those facts to the character's advantage. The book is also fast paced, both in plot and in location and there's an interesting mix of unusual circumstances that continually moves things forward.
The book is definitely enjoyable and an interesting mix of setting and character. The nine days between infection and death provides a set period and a certain urgency to the actions of the protagonist albeit also a constraint on possibilities. Freveletti does a good job of keeping the character's actions in perspective and making sure that the plot moves forward in logical ways. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone looking for a thriller with a strong female lead.