3.7 14
by Michael Palmer

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They fight without conscience or remorse. Their only job is to kill.
They are the most ruthless enemy we have ever faced.

And they are one millionth our size.

When Dr. Lou Welcome fills in last minute for his boss at a national conference in Atlanta he brings along his best friend, Cap Duncan. But an accident turns tragic when

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They fight without conscience or remorse. Their only job is to kill.
They are the most ruthless enemy we have ever faced.

And they are one millionth our size.

When Dr. Lou Welcome fills in last minute for his boss at a national conference in Atlanta he brings along his best friend, Cap Duncan. But an accident turns tragic when Cap injures his leg while running. Surgeons manage to save the leg, but the open wound is the perfect breeding ground for a deadly microbial invader committed to eating Cap alive from the inside out. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, a teenaged girl is fighting for her life against the same bacteria. The germ is resistant to any known antibiotic and the government scientist tasked with finding a cure has been kidnapped. Turning to the Centers for Disease Control for help, Lou Welcome uncovers a link to a shadowy group known as One Hundred Neighbors that has infiltrated our society and is using our health institutions as hostages. Like the deadly germs they can unleash, One Hundred Neighbors will stop at nothing to further their agenda. From the hospital corridors where anything you touch can mean your end, to the top corridors of power in this race against time, Lou must stop an epidemic, save his best friend, and face even his own most terrifying demons.From the New York Times bestselling author comes another heart stopping thriller that will make you look at the world around you in a new and frightening way.

"When you open the pages of a Michael Palmer novel, you know you are in the hands of a pro." -The Huffington Post

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 04/01/2014
Palmer, the master of medical suspense, captivates readers with his 20th and final stunning thriller. Dr. Lou Welcome, a recovering drug and alcohol addict with extensive experience in emergency medicine, and Cap Duncan, his longtime friend and former AA sponsor, attend a medical conference in Atlanta. While trail running, Cap slips and sustains a compound fracture of his femur. Although he is taken to the hospital, his gash soon becomes infected with a flesh-eating bacteria. Welcome discovers that a terrorist group has unleashed a "Doomsday Germ," which they hoped to contain by infecting individuals they alone selected. However, the bacteria has became more potent—resisting all antibiotics and contaminating numerous patients. Hoping to find a cure, the terrorists kidnap Dr. Nazar Farooq, a noted infectious disease specialist. Meanwhile, Lou meets Humphrey Miller, a self-trained microbiologist who urges Lou to treat the bacteria with a controversial, germ-eating microorganism. VERDICT This exciting, fast-paced thriller culminates a successful writing career for Palmer, who, in October 2013, died unexpectedly at age 71. Palmer drew upon his own extensive expertise in emergency medicine for such best-selling novels as Extreme Measures and The First Patient. [125,000-copy first printing.]—Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA
Publishers Weekly
Members of a secret group founded in the early 1940s, the Society of One Hundred Neighbors, believe that entitlements begun under F.D.R. are dooming the U.S. to bankruptcy and moral decay in the less-than-convincing third Dr. Lou Welcome thriller (after 2013’s Political Suicide) from bestseller Palmer, who died in 2013. Readers soon learn that the society was behind the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993—and that its goal was the “erosion of the public’s confidence in the head of the House Armed Services Committee that would lead to his resignation.” The Neighbors have now set their sights higher. They intend to use a devastating new strain of bacteria completely resistant to any known treatment to extort an end to New Deal policies like Social Security. Saving the world comes down to an unlikely pair of heroes—an FBI agent who survived a shot to the head, and Welcome, who has struggled with alcohol and amphetamine dependence. Characters’ reactions to events are often as unbelievable as the events themselves. 125,000-copy first printing. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A physician races the clock and a ferocious disease to save a friend's life. Lou Welcome, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, is a part-time emergency room doctor and the assistant director of the Physician Wellness Office, an institution that helps doctors with psychological and substance abuse problems. When Lou's boss at PWO sends him to Georgia to give a speech, Lou invites his friend and sponsor Hank "Cap" Duncan, a former wrestler, to come along and enjoy the outdoors. While they're out trail running, Cap slips and takes a terrible fall. Lou's determined rescue gets Cap to the hospital in time, and his friend seems to be healing nicely until he contracts a hospital-borne infection that starts eating up his flesh. The new strain, which the press calls the Doomsday Germ, is resistant to antibiotics. As Lou learns from Humphrey Miller, whose brilliant scientific mind is trapped in a disabled body, the germ is the work of a fringe organization called the Society of One Hundred Neighbors. To force the government to end entitlement programs, the Neighbors have cultivated the Doomsday Germ, which has now mutated beyond their ability to control it, and they've kidnapped a top government scientist to come up with an antidote. Frantic to save Cap's life, Lou agrees to work with Miller in a secret underground lab, only to be pulled even more deeply into a fanatical plan that tests his physical strength and moral courage in this fast-paced but sometimes far-fetched medical thriller. Palmer (Political Suicide, 2012, etc.) doesn't spend much time developing female characters. But in the doctor hero's latest adventure, he's tender as well as tough, and you have to cheer him on in his fight to save the friend who helped save him.

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St. Martin's Press
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Liberty is worth more than every pearl in the ocean, every ounce of gold ever mined. It is as precious to man as air, as necessary to survival as a beating heart.

—LANCASTER R. HILL, A Secret Worth Keeping, SAWYER RIVER BOOKS, 1937, P. 12

“Two-oh-six … two-oh-seven … two-oh-eight…”

“Come on, Big Lou. It hurts so good. Say it!”

“Okay, okay,” Lou Welcome groaned. “Two-oh-nine … It hurts so good … Two-ten … It hurts so good … Oh, it just frigging hurts! My … stomach’s … gonna … tear … open … Two-twelve…”

Lou was doing sit-ups on the carpet between the beds in room 177 of what had to be one of the bargain rooms at the venerable Chattahoochee Lodge. Cap Duncan, shirtless and already in his running shorts, was kneeling by Lou’s feet, holding down his ankles. Cap’s shaved pate was glistening. His grin, as usual, was like a star going nova. He had done three hundred crunches before Lou was even out of the sack, and looked like he could easily have ripped off three hundred more.

Every inch a man’s man.

Lou’s best friend, and for ten years his AA sponsor, was a fifty-two-year-old Bahamian, with a physique that looked like it had been chiseled by one of Michelangelo’s descendants. He had earned his nickname, Cap’n Crunch, from his days as a professional boxer, specifically from the sound noses made when he hit them.

It was April 14—a Thursday. Lou’s trip to Georgia had been ordered by Walter Filstrup, the bombastic head of the Washington, D.C., Physician Wellness Office (PWO), a position that made the psychiatrist Lou’s boss.

Filstrup’s sweet wife, Marjory, a polar opposite of her husband, was in the ICU of a Maryland hospital with an irregular heartbeat that had not responded to electrical cardioversion. But as one of two candidates for the presidency of the National Federation of Physician Health Programs, Filstrup was scheduled to address the annual meeting, being held this year at the lodge in the mountains north of Atlanta.

Wife in ICU versus speech in Georgia. Let … me … think.

Not surprisingly to Lou, Filstrup had actually wrestled mightily with the choice. It wasn’t until Marjory had an allergic reaction to one of the cardiac meds that the man turned his speech over to Lou along with his conference registration, and an expense account that would cover all Lou’s meals, providing he only ate one a day.


“You’re slowing down, Welcome,” Cap said. “You’re not going to get to three hundred that way.”

“I’m not going to get … to three hundred any way.”

Cap, his competitive fire seldom dimmed, delighted in saying that most people’s workout was his warm-up. Lou, nine years younger, and at six feet, an inch or so taller, never had any problem believing that. Their connection began the day Lou was checked into Harbor House, a sober halfway house in one of the grittier sections of D.C. Cap, given name Hank, was working as a group leader there while he cajoled one bank after another trying to scrape together enough bread for his own training center. Twelve months after that, Lou was living on his own, the Stick and Move Gym had become a reality, and the two friends, one black as a moonless night, and the other a blue-eyed rock-jaw with the determination of a Rottweiler and roots that may have gone back to the Pilgrims, were sparring three times a week.

A year or so after that, following a zillion recovery meetings and the development of a new, infinitely mellower philosophy of living, the suspension of Lou’s medical license was lifted, and he was back in the game.

“Okay, then,” Cap said, “do what you can. It’s no crime to lower your expectations. Only not too far.”

“Does everything … we do together … have to be … some sort of competition? Two-twenty … two-twenty-one…”

“I assume we’re going to have breakfast after our run and I don’t believe in competitive eating, if that helps any.”

“Of course. It would be the one area I could kick your butt.”

The Chattahoochee Lodge had been built in the twenties for hunters and had been enlarged and renovated in 1957, the same year Elvis purchased Graceland. A sprawling, rustic complex, the main building was perched in the mountainous forest, high above the banks of the fast-flowing Chattahoochee River. As ecotourism boomed in the early 1990s, the place became a major destination for leisure travelers, birders, hikers, and convention goers, with rooms often booked a year in advance.

Lou, board-certified in both internal and emergency medicine, had never particularly enjoyed medical conferences of any kind, so it was a godsend when he whined about the impending trip to Cap and learned that his friend’s only living relative was an aging aunt, living just outside of Atlanta. Working full-time in the ER at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital, and part-time with the PWO, Lou had more than enough in his small war chest for another ticket south. The quite reasonable rent for his second-floor, two-bedroom apartment down the street from the gym and just above Dimitri’s Pizza helped make a loan to his sponsor even more painless.

Proof that the idea was a solid one was that Cap haggled surprisingly little over the bartering agreement Lou proposed—two months of weekly sessions in the ring for him, plus an additional four lessons for his precocious fourteen-year-old daughter, Emily. Cap would get the window seat.

Having to put up with Filstrup notwithstanding, Lou loved his job at the PWO. The pay was lousy, but for him the irony of going from being a client to being an associate director was huge. The organization provided support and monitoring services for doctors with mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse, sexual boundary violations, and behavioral problems. Most new PWO contracts required the troubled physician to enter some sort of treatment program or inpatient rehab, followed by regular meetings with their assigned PWO associate director, along with frequent random urine screens for alcohol and other drugs of abuse.

Lou was hardly averse to counseling and psychotherapy for certain docs, but he strongly believed that, physician or not, addiction was a medical illness and not a moral issue. Walter Filstrup disagreed.

When Filstrup finally handed over his carefully typed speech and the conference program, the trip got even better. Not only would Lou and Cap have time for some training runs together in the mountains, but while Cap was visiting his aunt, Lou would be able to take a conference-sponsored guided tour of the Centers for Disease Control—the CDC.

More irony.

Lou had spent nearly ten months of his life in Atlanta and had never even been close to the world-renowned institute. The last time he was in the city, nine years before, was for the one-year reunion of his treatment group at the Templeton Drug Rehab Center.

It was time to complete some circles.


Copyright © 2014 by Michael Palmer

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