Jerk, A Jihad And A Virus
by Gary Jones
Review by Gayle Surrette
Boutique of Quality Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781939371928
Date: 03 May 2016 List Price $19.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
It all started when a foreign grad student from China, who may have been exposed to SARS, fell ill when working with bovine coronavirus (BCV) in calves. This was followed by an other foreign student - this one from the Middle East -- deciding to take a few short cuts and stealing some research, hoping to get a plum job and lots of money, and not having to live with either of his parents ever again.
What it meant to the US government is that there was a potential to infect a lot of people with a very deadly virus and that, as much as they hated to do it, they were going to need to involve scientists in their efforts to find the people involved and destroy the virus.
Of course, the expert that they'll need to work with is Jason Mitchell, a veterinarian and a graduate student in virology. He'd been working with BCV, had identified the mutation with SARS, and so was the best person to help the CIA. However, he was also unable to lie convincingly and socially inept. He also had a serious relationship with another grad student doing research in veterinary medicine. He also had no useful spy-type skills, so definitely not the person you'd want to rely on in an undercover situation. But then they never intended him to be needed in the field. You know what they say about plans and reality -- they seldom resemble each other.
The plot is twisty but believable, especially if you have experience in academia. The characters are realistic enough to walk off the page -- some more than others I'll admit -- but believable none the less.
I admit I had low expectations starting this book but after just a few chapters I was hooked. Entertaining to read, and I now know more about BCV and veterinary procedures and issues than I ever expected. How can you beat a book that entertains and educates (though I'll leave the international intrigue as mostly a trope rather than truthful).