After Richard Preston's The Cobra Event, you'd think bestselling authors would give the abused citizens of New York City a little break. Well, not so. In Robin Cook's Vector, the Big Apple is locked in the sights of a twisted citizen who feels he's been deprived of the American dream. Get ready to be terrified once again.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this age of lethal bioweapons, there's a frightening logic in the idea that your next breath might kill you. Alas, Cook's latest, about an impending bioterrorist attack in New York City, is more ho-hum than horrifying. The premise has promise: cab driver Yuri Davydov is a disillusioned Russian immigrant haunted by his involvement in a tragic accidental release of government-produced anthrax that killed hundreds, including his mother. Armed with hatred for America and practical skills in how to build a biochemical weapon, he's joined forces with Curt Rogers and Steve Henderson of the People's Aryan Army. This catastrophic coalition aims to attack the Jacob Javits Federal Building and the Upper East Side; but for starters, Davydov tests his weapons on his own much-maligned wife and random, innocent rug merchant Jason Papparis. When medical examiner Jack Stapleton (last seen in Cook's Chromosome 6) does an autopsy on Papparis, the first of a series of plot-deadening coincidences occurs--he meets Davydov, who just happens to be cruising by to see if Papparis is dead. Too much "just happens" throughout this novel; worse, the investigators maddeningly bumble around obvious clues the reader has long since pieced together. Stapleton just happens to play basketball with the brother of Davydov's murdered wife; when autopsying the body of Aryan Army informant Brad Cassidy, he has a contrived hunch, and tests the body for anthrax poisoning. The whole plot, including the finale, hinges on happenstance, and Cook seems to know it--his characters say things like, "What kind of weird coincidence could this be?" Cook's biotechnology research is rewarding, the pace is as pleasingly hectic as you'd expect from the author of Toxin, etc., and some of the characters are well drawn. But in the end, this potentially spine-tingling premise is undermined by a disappointing plot manifesting authorial machination rather than authentic, character-driven events. (Mar.)
Medical thriller master Cook (Toxin) explores the ramifications of biological weapons as forensic pathologist Jack Stapleton deals with three seemingly unrelated deaths. The first involves a rug importer mysteriously infected with anthrax. The second is a particularly horrific murder of a white supremacist, while the third begins as a routine asthma death that becomes suspicious. Attempting to find the asthma victim's actual cause of death, Jack races against time when he uncovers a plot masterminded by a neo-Nazi group working with a bitter Russian immigrant to release anthrax spores into New York City. Although some of the plot developments are implausible and some of the characters stereotypical, the chillingly realistic premise combined with Jason Culp's accurate portrayals of a large cast of characters makes this a compelling tale that will be popular in all fiction collections.--Susan McCaffrey, Haslett H.S., MI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Cookin' Up Some Terror
For more than 20 years, Robin Cook has been the undisputed master of the medical thriller, coming up with plots that tap into our darkest fears and exploit our greatest vulnerabilities. His latest book, Vector, is no exception, offering up the specter of biological terrorism as its premise. Bringing back forensic pathologists Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery, who were last seen in Chromosome 6, Cook delivers a tale of ultimate terror nestled in the comfort of some of his best-known and most likable characters.
Like so many other immigrants, Russian Yuri Davydov came to the United States in search of the great American dream. What he found instead was a capitalistic and segregated society that leaves him eking out his existence as a New York City cabdriver rather than utilizing his extensive knowledge and training in bio-weapons research. Forced into a marriage of convenience so he can stay in the country, Yuri has grown bitter and resentful. As a result, he has decided to return to Russia, but not before seeking revenge against his adoptive nation by putting his superior knowledge to use in a way that will immortalize him and make him a hero back in his homeland.
When fate hooks Yuri up with members of a neo-Nazi group that call themselves the People's Aryan Army, it seems a match made in heaven. The PAA is anxious to exact its own revenge upon the American government in retribution for the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The PAA has targeted the Jacob Javits Federal Building in New York City for its terrorism; Yuri is prepared to unleash his revenge upon the general populace by releasing a biological agent in Central Park.
The weapon of choice is anthrax, a potent and deadly bacteria capable of killing within a day or two of exposure. Yuri's knowledge of how to culture and package the deadly bacteria, combined with the PAA's intricate plan for dispersing it, will mean the deaths of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in a matter of days. But before this unlikely band of terrorists implement their deadly act, they want to make sure the bacteria will have the desired effect. Yuri tests his homegrown killer on an unsuspecting Greek rug dealer, who dies within 24 hours of exposure. Thrilled with their success, the terrorists start the clock ticking as New York City's citizens go about their business, totally unaware of the havoc about to be unleashed.
Dr. Jack Stapleton, a politically incorrect forensic pathologist and infectious-disease expert in the New York City Medical Examiner's office, has his mind on other things. His ongoing love interest and coworker, Dr. Laurie Montgomery, has been unusually cool and distant for the past month or so. Then she does a sudden about-face, inviting Jack out for dinner to share some exciting news that has her acting positively jubilant. Fearing that Laurie may be leaving to take a position on the West Coast, Jack becomes despondent. But when he finds out the real reason behind Laurie's joy, the shocking news leaves him confused and devastated.
Ever the workaholic, Jack distracts himself with his job. When the rug dealer's body ends up on his autopsy table, Jack quickly identifies the cause of the man's death. But Yuri was clever enough to choose a victim for whom exposure to the unusual bacterial strain is easily explainable and little cause for panic. Still, nagging doubts about the case prompt Jack to investigate a little deeper. As other mysterious deaths occur, Jack and Laurie are drawn together in a race to solve the puzzle. When Jack is forced to step beyond the boundaries of procedure, protocol, and politics, it will ultimately jeopardize both his job and his life. And as the terrorists carry out the final phase of their plan, Laurie and Jack find themselves in a race against death, trying to save not just their own lives but those of the American people.
Vector is a riveting read that will leave readers both frightened and enthralled. With today's headlines hawking both the threat and reality of bio-terrorist attacks, such as the release of sarin gas in a Tokyo subway and the existence of Iraq's bio-weapons production facilities, Cook has once again zeroed in on an all-too-real scenario that makes for the most terrifying of fiction.
Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Doctor Cook, King of the Mind-bending Medical Thriller (from Coma to Invasion to Toxin), returns with a swoon-worthy killer-poison more dangerous than any before it.
A vector, as in the title, is a carrier that transmits an infectious agent from one host to another. Back from Chromosome 6 (1997) are Drs. Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery, forensic pathologists in the New York Chief Medical Examiner's office. The first victim to come under their scope is Jason Papparis, a rug dealer who inhaled a fatal dust sent to him in a small box-how grisly, how amusing, a rug dealer murdered by dust! Also on hand at the morgue is dead and mutilated young skinhead Brad Cassidy, victim of the People's Aryan Army, which has been recruiting skinheads as shock troops and "tapping into that well of hatred and violence the music has engendered" (in Cookprose, music can engender a well). The pathologists find that Papparis died of anthrax. As it happens, a disaffected Russian, Yuri Davydov, once a low-level worker in a Russian bioweapons lab, has managed to get himself into the US and turn Manhattan cab driver. An anti-Semite, Yuri feels dismissed as a human being by American Zionists and has set up a bioweapons lab in his basement in Brighton Beach, undertaking what he calls Operation Revenge.
Meanwhile, he falls in with ex-military noncoms Steve Henderson and Curt Rogers, who are now NYC firemen as well as followers of the People's Aryan Army. The three hatch a plot to avenge Ruby Ridge by releasing Yuri's anthrax into the ventilation system of the 40-story Jacob Javits building, while Yuri also really wants to stick it to Manhattan's Jews by encircling Central Park with a ring of the incredibly infectious toxin.
What can a mere pair of pathologists do to stop this crew of nuts? Cook himself believes that a bioterrorist event is, without question, locked into our future. Not really a thought to minimize, as his cautionary tale observes.