Tim Downs






WestBow, January 2006

Reviewer Sissy Jacobson


Contemporary Thriller


Special FBI Agent Nathan Donovan of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and his partner, NYPD Detective Leopold Satwyck--better known as Poldie--are called to the scene of a homicide. The body is lying on a white rug, a single bullet hole in his forehead, and what appears to be blood spatters caused by the wound. However, the patterns the dots create are not consistent with that of a gunshot wound. They are found around the head, wrists, both legs, and the victimís waist. Nathan had called in a forensic entomologist from N.C. in Raleigh, Dr. Nick Polchak. Nick scrapes the carpet with a piece of white paper, gathering several tiny gray dots. He explains they are Oriental rat fleas, capable of carrying bubonic plague. But how did they get there? Bubonic plague has been wiped out since the Middle Ages.


Once the news hit the international media, Nathan receives a call from an eighty-year-old man who introduces himself as Li Ming, a Chinese Christian who speaks perfect English and is now residing in England. He tells Nathan he knows who is responsible for the fleas: Dr. Sato Matsushita. Li has been tracking him for sixty years, just missing him on several occasions. Nathan reluctantly agrees to allow Li to join them. In the meantime, the department hires Nathanís ex-wife, Macy Monroe, a professor of political science and international relations at Columbia, and an expert in the psychology of terrorism. Once Li arrives and slowly begins to tell his story, Nathan doesnít know if he trusts him, but Macy trusts him. Little by little throughout the story, Li slowly reveals how he met Matsushita, worked under him during WW II, and the reason Matsushita turned from wanting to be a good doctor, to spending the past sixty years working on methods of biological warfare to use against America, the country he hates with all his being.


PLAGUE MAKER goes back and forth between the present and the past, with Li dropping tidbits of Christian wisdom and faith into the story; teaching forgiveness and love without preaching. Unless you are familiar with the Bible and Biblical prophecy, you wonít notice when the tightly woven fiction and fact intermingle. The narration is smooth, the characters almost realistic, and the era definitely on target. However in a few places the timeline is off just a bit. One example is at the beginning when Dr. Nick Polchak arrives at the scene from Raleigh, N.C. before Nathan and Poldie. Another nitpicky thing-- can you see the FBI and JTTF allowing Li Ming, a complete stranger, to remain so close to the investigation?


PLAGUE MAKER by Tim Downs is a well-told thriller based on history and todayís headlines. I have to admit, I wish the ending had been more clear. Read it and see what you think


February 2006


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