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Book Review of The First Horseman

The First Horseman
reviewed on + 36 more book reviews


Amazon.com Review
The fictional bioterror of Richard Preston's The Cobra Event was scary enough, but The First Horseman is based on the real Spanish flu, a hideous virus that killed over 20 million people in 1918. From the opening pages, this second novel by investigative reporter John Case (author of The Genesis Code) thrusts readers into the thick of a rapid-fire plot. In New York, a man and a woman are murdered at their home by a cult whose motivations remain mysterious. Immediately, the action shifts to Tasi-ko, North Korea, where a medical worker flees to the mountains to escape a disease that has decimated his village. While he looks on from his hiding spot, North Korean soldiers pour into Tasi-ko and incinerate it and all of its suffering inhabitants. The CIA investigates the events at Tasi-ko, and realizing that the disease could well be a hybrid Spanish flu being tested as a biological weapon, recruits a team of American scientists to uncover the only known sample of the 1918 pandemic--which is frozen into the bodies of miners buried in the Arctic. From there the novel traces scientists Anne Adair and Benton Kicklighter on their expedition to the frozen town of Kopervik to uncover the miners' corpses. Not knowing that the CIA is behind Adair and Kicklighter's work, Washington Post reporter Frank Daly follows their story. When the scientists return empty-handed, though, he begins to suspect that a medical curiosity is on the verge of becoming a global catastrophe.
The strength of the novel is the eerie suspense that Case sustains by revealing only enough about the Korean plot and the Temple of Light cult to keep the reader fully engaged and wanting more. While Case doesn't spend much time delving into the lives and motivations of his characters, the Spanish flu is the real star. Case propels the novel with the constant reminder that a new plague is on the verge of exploding, and his several enigmatic subplots keep you turning the pages and praying that this is only fiction. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
Recent reports that the 1918 flu virus, source of history's most lethal pandemic, might be preserved inside the bodies of five Norwegian miners buried beneath the permafrost on the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen make this novel especially timely. Moving in dated chapters through the spring into the summer months of 1998, this tense thriller turns that story into a "secular apocalypse," which begins when a North Korean medical officer flees across the DMZ to report that his isolated village was first devastated by a strange sickness, then destroyed and completely buried by the military. A team of American microbiologists, whose application to exhume the Spitsbergen bodies has been denied, suddenly finds its expedition funded by a foundation from which they hadn't even sought money. Frank Daly, a Washington Post reporter scheduled to join the expedition, is grounded in Archangel, and when he meets the icebreaker Rex Mundi on its return to Norway, he finds the pier closed and no one from the expedition willing to talk to him?a sure incentive for any true reporter to pursue the story to the death, which Daly very nearly does. Although the setup is in some ways more gripping than the action payoff of the novel's second half, pseudonymous D.C. reporter Case (The Gemini Code) breathes excitement into his topical story. Especially memorable is the microwave death of one character, leaving behind just a tiny handful of soot


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