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Viral by James Lilliefors
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616950682
Date: 10 April 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Agent's Author Page / Show Official Info /

Much like Alan Gywn's Bloodland: A Novel, Viral features powerful men and government officials in a massive conspiracy in Africa. The novel focuses on an attempt to solve Third World problems by eliminating a large population and starting over with modern technology and infrastructure in place to create a new and vibrant country. Only one man can stop the slaughter.

Charlie Mallory, once a CIA operative and now working as a security contractor for the government, sets out to solve the questions posed by his dead father. The more he learns, the more horrified he grows. His initial task is to locate Isaac Priest, a shady African businessman buying up large chunks of several tiny nations in central Africa.

Mallory heads a small, high-tech firm with a cadre of highly skilled men and women to aid him. As he learns more, he asks his journalist brother to write stories about the situation. Meanwhile the chase leads from one source to another, each adding to the puzzle.

Terrorists set out to kill Mallory, but he has learned how to survive and to outwit them. Colleagues risk their lives to stop the killings and some die. Others stay the course. 'Eyes in the sky' play a major role in tracking Charlie and his brother, but also mislead the villains.

Jon, Charlie's brother, like Jimmy Gilroy in Bloodland, proves adept at eluding capture and goes undercover to see first hand the consequences of an early trial in depopulation using an engineered virus. Disposal of corpses from mass deaths presents a challenge to the planners. When his contact is killed, he barely escapes.

In some ways, for supposedly intelligent men long used to the intricacies of spies and terrorist, the perpetrators seem na´ve. Readers may be surprised at how easily Mallory finds it to get to the information he needs. Some people retain copies of reports and documents that should never have survived or remained in their possession. The author also withholds information from the reader until later in the story to heighten the tension.

Lilliefors provides enough twists to keep the pages turning. He also manages to develop and humanize his characters including some of the villains. Charlie receives most of the attention.

Some may think the villain in the piece resembles a cross between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, while another man sounds a lot like Ted Turner. Nothing in the novel beyond possible similarities in nature and appearance substantiate this. It is always tempting to treat such thrillers as roman a clef stories, but that may be more the reader's imagination than the author's intent. Lilliefors is at work on a follow-on novel to Viral.

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