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When a bout of food poisoning strikes a residence for lively seniors blessed with generous pensions and high-ranking political connections, Dr. Zol Szabo, public health doctor turned medical detective, assembles his investigative team. But the epidemic’s source proves elusive; the death count rises and when the scourge threatens someone close to Zol, he calls in his friend and colleague Hamish Wakefield, a microbe connoisseur with a nose for exotic diagnoses. Though Hamish uncovers other dangers, he can’t crack ...
When a bout of food poisoning strikes a residence for lively seniors blessed with generous pensions and high-ranking political connections, Dr. Zol Szabo, public health doctor turned medical detective, assembles his investigative team. But the epidemic’s source proves elusive; the death count rises and when the scourge threatens someone close to Zol, he calls in his friend and colleague Hamish Wakefield, a microbe connoisseur with a nose for exotic diagnoses. Though Hamish uncovers other dangers, he can’t crack the puzzle, and neither can the health unit’s outbreak-hunting whiz kid. It takes the observant octogenarians to expose the deaths for what they really are: a string of murders. Fast-paced and intricately plotted, Tampered is second in a series of books to feature Dr. Zol Szabo and his quirky surrounding cast of mystery-solving public health officials.
"Pennie builds tension perfectly, grabbing readers from the first page and keeping them entranced, both with the story itself and with nagging worries about the safety of the food they eat. All the characters . . . are realistically portrayed, their actions and emotions well matched with both their personalities and the plot. Must reading for fans of Robin Cook and Peter Clement." —Booklist
"Canadian physician Pennie's mystery debut introduces a winning protagonist, an Ontario public health doctor and former chef . . . The appealing supporting cast includes a gorgeous female PI. Pennie, an infectious-disease specialist, makes the medical jargon accessible." —Publishers Weekly
"Perhaps this sort of deliciously morbid thriller is becoming our particular gift to the genre. First came Montreal’s Kathy Reichs and her books about a forensic anthropologist (which form the basis of the TV series Bones). Now comes Dr. Pennie and his insight into the world of exotic cooties. Canada may not have given the world a lot of action heroes. But we sure know how to give it the creeps." —National Post
"The prose in this new series goes down as smoothly as the fine scotch favored by the lead character, Dr. Zol Szabo." —New York Journal of Books (May 1, 2011)
"Pennie's plot has a winning cast of players and a plot with delicious, unpredictable twists, ending in a riveting finale. Tampered is the second book in a Dr. Zol Szabo trilogy. The first, Tainted, was published in 2009. I'm looking forward to No. 3." —Waterloo Region Record (August 27, 2011)
But today, Zol saw only clinical diagnoses smouldering through the retirement residence: the wobbly knees of rheumatoid arthritis, the stooped backs of osteoporosis, the trembling hands of Parkinson’s, the vacant eyes of macular degeneration.
Zol forced another smile at Art, who was taking his place at the piano in the sitting room on the other side of the archway. Zol hoped Art was well enough to play. He’d looked pale and drawn when he’d greeted Zol a few minutes ago and confessed he’d been hit by another bout of fever and the runs earlier in the week. That made it his third bout in the past couple of months. And he wasn’t the only one. Dozens of others had been hit with the same bug. Art denied any headache, thank goodness. When headache compounded the fever and diarrhea, the result was lethal. In the past month alone, two of the converted mansion’s thirty–eight residents had died within hours of a blinding headache compounding their explosive stools.
Art warmed up with a few bars of “Bicycle Built For Two.” His chording was tentative, not as sharp as usual. He switched to an improvised version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Art played everything by ear. He couldn’t read a note, but if he heard something once, he could play it forever. Despite the advancing muscle disease that had forced him into an electric scooter, he still glimmered with the genius that had made him an engineering whiz–kid in the telephone industry fifty years ago.
The understated elegance of the dining room’s caramel walls and burgundy accents reminded Zol of a café in one of Hamilton’s nicer hotels, except the bucolic vista through Camelot’s windows was considerably more handsome than any view of the city’s down–at–the–heels central core. Here on an elegant cul–de–sac a few blocks from downtown, stately homes abutted the woodlands at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment. Known locally as the Mountain, the imposing ribbon of limestone and old–growth forest snaked through the city like a giant’s doorstep, its flora and fauna protected by the United Nations as a World Biosphere Reserve. Zol thought of his own renovated house a couple of kilometres above as the seagulls flew, perched on a generous treed lot on the Escarpment’s edge. He was thankful once again for the two million in lottery winnings that had sent him to medical school and bought him such a gorgeous piece of real estate with its jetliner view. He could cope with Hamilton’s overgenerous share of shysters and gangsters if, at the end of the day, he could tuck Max safely in bed, then sip a Glenfarclas while watching Lake Ontario shimmer in the ever–changing light.
Camelot’s dining tables boasted smooth white linens, shiny cutlery, and imitation crystal that sparkled as brightly as the stuff his mother reserved for special occasions. Today’s spread of poached salmon, eggs, bacon, French toast, salads, and gooey desserts looked a treat. As a former professional chef himself, Zol respected the care and effort that went into every dish. But as a public–health doctor, the table seemed to him less a chef ’s delight than a minefield.
Something nasty and undetectable — a microbe or a toxin — was poisoning the food. But intermittently. Not every dish and not every meal. As the Associate Medical Officer of Health for Hamilton–Lakeshore, second–in–command at the region’s health unit, Zol’s job was to quash epidemics, not wallow in them during Sunday brunch. Twice he’d sent his inspectors into Camelot. They’d examined every centimetre of the place with a magnifying glass. They’d collected scores of samples from the kitchen and dozens of specimens from afflicted residents. But they’d come up empty. The kitchen met all the health codes, and the laboratory detected no disease–causing pathogens.
Zol’s friend and medical–school classmate, Dr. Hamish Wakefield, a savant in the field of infectious diseases, had raised the possibility of epidemic Norovirus. But even Hamish, an assistant professor at the city’s Caledonian University Medical Centre, was stumped; he conceded there was no indication that anything as simple as the cruise–ship virus was the culprit here.
Zol helped the wait staff — invariably hesitant, awkward, and struggling with their English — park the walkers in a double row against the far wall of the dining room. He escorted the frailest of the gauzy–white residents to their seats, then joined the slow–moving buffet queue. He knew he’d soon be hunting down unsalted butter for one person and cholesterol–free scrambled eggs for another. He shrugged off the risk to his intestines and half–filled his plate with breakfast fare he hoped would be sterile: a rubbery fried egg, three crispy rashers of bacon, and a piece of charred toast. Bypassing the devilled eggs, sliced tomatoes, and potato salad, he took his place at Art’s table where Phyllis and Betty were already seated.
Posted August 22, 2013
The second in a series about a public health doctor and his team who investigate mysterious outbreaks is a satisfying "whodunnit" with likeable and credible characters. The plot too is believable, and makes one ponder how medicines are distributed in North America. A third novel is on the way, and I look forward to reading it as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2012
The second entry in the Zol Szabo "epidemiological detective" series is a mostly fun read, although as in "Tainted," the author feels it necessary to add a melodramatic climax when the solution to the underlying puzzle would have been enough. Warning to the faint of stomach: The epidemic in the story has to do with unfortunate GI symptoms, and if you're not used to discussions of unpleasant bodily secretions, you may feel a little queasy about the repeated discussion of them, although it's in medical or euphemistic terms and needed for the plot. This is better written than the first book and I enjoyed revisiting the characters. If there's a third book, I'll read it, too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.