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Book Review: The Gabon Virus (TSI: Time Scene Investigators) by Paul McCusker and Walter Larimore

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What do a mysterious 17th century blue monk and a modern super-virus run wild have in common? Co-authors Paul McCusker and Walter Larimore tie together the stories of the 1666 plague in Eeyam, England, with a deadly modern virus run amok in The Gabon Virus. This first in a new series of medical, faith-based thrillers pulls together realistic medical detail (thanks to Larimore – a medical doctor) with strong threads of faith and hope. I seem to have inherited something of my mother’s fascination with medical thrillers, so the combination of the two piqued my interest.

Starting off at a brisk pace, McCusker and Larimore draw readers into a world of covert medical research facilities, cutthroat pharmaceutical giants, and a threatening pandemic of dire proportions. Flashbacks to the 17th century and the mysterious blue monk deepen the sense of mystery surrounding the plague, the intersection of past and present, and where these parallel roads will meet.

I was right there in the action; the interagency relations all seem quite realistic. When introduced to TSI – Time Scene Investigators – a unit of medical researchers who specialize in digging into the past for insight into current of future health threats, the writing drops down a notch in quality. After the strong start the place does bog down some, and my reading slowed. At over 400 pages, a shorter story might have kept the suspense levels high throughout.

Though the first in a series, it seems that there is quite a bit of depth and detail missing from the lives of this team of colleagues. It would almost seem that a long history exists between them all from previous books that readers aren’t privy to, and character development is somewhat lacking. Their dialogue also tends to degenerate into foolish, inane, and adolescent put-downs as they try to one-up each other. While the team was perhaps meant as a comic ruse to lighten the otherwise dark and intense atmosphere, these interjections always seemed out of place and annoying.

Most titles written in Christian fiction today are based upon an evangelical spirituality, but The Gabon Virus is clearly far more Roman Catholic – many of its characters are Catholics, and one of our story’s hero has left the protestant faith for the Catholic church. Some readers may also want to know that the story presents the appearance of a ghost and the possible guidance of such a spirit as a positive, helpful influence from God. Because of the scriptural warnings about seeking to communicate with ghosts I am somewhat leery of this aspect of the story.

I love the concept for the Time Scene Investigators series and feel that it has good potential. We do see spiritual growth taking place and the correlations between past and present are fascinating, but my reservations about this title make me reluctant to invest the time to read another installment.

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