A Heartbeat Away A Heartbeat Away
by Michael Palmer
Review by Steve Sawicki
St. Martin's Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312587512
Date: Undefined 2011
A terrorist group releases a highly contagious virus into the Capitol building on the night of the State of the Union address. The President immediately quarantines the building. As the terrorist group, Genesis, works their terror President James Allaire must come to grips with the fact that he is not only aware of the virus that they are now battling but had a hand in it's creation. He knows of only one man who might help them. The problem is, that man, virologist Griffin Rhodes, is in a maximum security prison for alleged theft of the microbe. Griffin is innocent and manages to overcome his bitterness at being wrongly imprisoned to grab at this chance to clear his name.
On the outside, the Director of Homeland Security, the designated survivor, is trying to figure out what's going on and what he can do about it. While on the inside politics begins to play out as those in the line of succession watch the obviously infected President grow weaker. As time passes, those inside the Capitol begin to die, one by one.
This is an interesting concept, and the mix of medical thriller, terrorism and politics creates an interesting story line. The idea of all of those politicians locked up in a single building while the clock ticks provides a real sense of urgency to solving the puzzle of what is going on. The added wild card of throwing in Griffin is fascinating and plot shifting at times as well. Palmer's knowledge of medicine and medical processes are key to the novel's pacing and progression. We get what we need to know as readers rather than an info dump based on the writer's research.
I was thoroughly entertained by this book. I enjoyed the characters, I thought the political angle added a great deal to the story and was well played out, the virus and the infection were fun devices and the whole thing really came together to form an engaging read. Definitely recommended if you like medical thrillers, political thrillers or just strong writing.