WestBow, 2006 (2006)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
opens on a puzzling murder in which thousands of foreign fleas are released into a New York city loft, and then exterminated. This occurrence brings a wise old Chinese man, Li Ming, to contact FBI Special Agent Nathan Donovan. Li, who once worked with Simon Wiesenthal as a Nazi hunter, has been on a lifelong search for an equally aged Japanese man, Sato Matsushita. Though they have much in common - both were trained in medicine and both have spent their lives (driven Li considers they have been
) by past violence and terrible tragedy - they take different paths towards closure.
onovan, the story's hero, is haunted and driven to reckless, almost suicidal behavior, by his own past failures as his small son lay dying of cancer. Li warns Donovan that his nemesis, Sato, was part of a biological warfare unit (Unit 731) in WW II Manchuria that performed field experiments on Chinese civilians and has long planned an attack on the United States - in particular, he will unleash a modern day epidemic of genetically altered bubonic plague if they cannot find and stop him. We're introduced to Sato in Syria, meeting with Khalid, who serves as his intermediary with the old man's '
'. And we meet the head of a young fireworks company, who's offered the perfect technology for his New York Fourth of July grand finale - with conditions.
hough skeptical of what he tells them, Donovan's FBI superiors insist on involving Donovan's estranged ex-wife, Dr. Macy Monroe (a Columbia Professor who specializes in '
the psychology of terrorism and international terrorist threat assessment
') to report on Li's credibility. We see her teaching, with a fascinating analogy between the
David and Goliath
story and current world affairs (guess who's the modern Goliath?) Macy believes Li, who insists on meeting face to face with Sato in return for helping to track him down. What does Li plan for that meeting? Donovan believes he knows, and is torn between duty and his developing friendship for Li and compassion for what he's suffered. While this unusual trio follows leads, a ship sets sail for New York with a deadly cargo.
s the story develops, the author steadily unfolds accounts of the past events in both Li's and Sato's lives that propel them forward. The grand finale (in New York harbour) is packed with action and violence. Li achieves his dream, while Donovan wins the possibility of redemption, in a satisfying ending to a chilling story that's disturbingly relevant to today's world.
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