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3.6 66
by Ken Follett

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"Everyone likes a page-turner, and Follett is the best." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A hell of a storyteller" (Entertainment Weekly), #1 New York Times bestselling author Ken Follett reinvents the thriller with each new novel. But nothing matches the intricate knife-edge drama of Whiteout. . . . 

A missing canister of


"Everyone likes a page-turner, and Follett is the best." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A hell of a storyteller" (Entertainment Weekly), #1 New York Times bestselling author Ken Follett reinvents the thriller with each new novel. But nothing matches the intricate knife-edge drama of Whiteout. . . . 

A missing canister of a deadly virus. A lab technician bleeding from the eyes. Toni Gallo, the security director of a Scottish medical research firm, knows she has problems, but she has no idea of the nightmare to come.
As a Christmas Eve blizzard whips out of the north, several people, Toni among them, converge on a remote family house. All have something to gain or lose from the drug developed to fight the virus. As the storm worsens, the emotional sparks—jealousies, distrust, sexual attraction, rivalries—crackle; desperate secrets are revealed; hidden traitors and unexpected heroes emerge. Filled with startling twists at every turn, Whiteout rockets Follett into a class by himself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Follett's latest Le Mans-paced thriller, doses of the possible antidote to a deadly virus are stolen from a small pharmaceutical lab in Scotland, much to the dismay of the lab's security chief, Toni Gallo. Not only is the actual virus capable of decimating the British Isles, but the theft is certain to interfere with Toni's budding romance with the drug company's widowed founder, Stanley Oxenford. It is to Follett's credit that he is able to combine biological terrorism, romance, sadism, Alzheimer's disease and family dysfunction into an effective antidote to boredom. But these disparate elements, not to mention the idea of trapping heroes and villains with the virus in a country home cut off from the rest of humanity by a snowstorm, come close to parody. Reader Rosenblat's breathless British-accented narration crosses that line at times, particularly when she reads passages in which Follett tries, not always convincingly, to provide reasons for why his good guys can't summon help with their cell phones. On the other hand, she is extremely effective in delivering the novel's dialogue. Her Scottish brogues are especially impressive, as is the cruel Cockney accent she employs to add menace to the book's most unique character, a homicidal thug named Daisy who possesses a broken nose, a ring-pierced lip and beautiful hands. Simultaneous release with the Dutton hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 15, 2004). (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Associated Press
A blizzard of treachery and violence.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Everyone likes a page-turner, and Follett is the best.
Wall Street Journal
Movie-style twists and hairbreadth escapes.
Library Journal
A laboratory technician's mysterious death on Christmas Eve (think: Ebola) puts a Scottish pharmaceutical firm's security chief, Toni Gallo, on high alert. The extra attention is unfortunate for Kit Oxenford, the lab director's bright but disgraced son, who is planning a Christmas heist of antiviral medicine. Beset by huge gambling debts, Kit now has to work off his losses with a criminal team (i.e., terrorists) more interested in the virus than the cure. Meanwhile, director Stanley Oxenford and the rest of his colorful family are gathering at their remote holiday home. Smart and conscientious Toni catches wind of Kit's plans, and a dynamic game of cat and mouse ensues-in the midst of a blizzard. Implausible? Probably. Exciting? Absolutely. Holidays and viruses aren't new to the bio-thriller field, but best-selling suspense author Follett (Hornet Flight) makes the formula work with his trademark strong females, large cast of characters, and race-against-the-clock pace. Have fun suggesting this title to John J. Nance and Tess Gerritsen fans or other readers looking for high-speed escapism. Strongly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/04.]-Terry Jacobsen, Santa Monica P.L., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With an assist from a beautiful former cop, a more or less dysfunctional Scottish family defends home and hearth against superevil Londoners. Back to the present after confounding the Nazis in Jackdaws (2001) and Hornet Flight (2002), the reliable thrillmeister again makes maximum use of wretched British weather-a freak Christmas Eve blizzard this time-to thicken the plot as a gang of brutal thieves plan to break into the ultra-secure laboratory owned by pharmaceutical mogul Stanley Oxenford, a wealthy widower. Lovely security chief Toni Gallo, late of the Glasgow police force, has already dealt with one viral crisis: the death of a bunny-loving technician infected with the dreaded Madoba-2, target of a vaccine in development at Oxenford's headquarters. Toni's latest task is complicated by her ex-lover, a stinker who drove her from her dream career as a cop and thinks nothing of leaking damaging news to scandal-hungry local telly reporters. She's also flustered by handsome Stanley's attentions. Could the 60ish but studly tycoon have a thing for her? The plot races as Toni ponders. Kit Oxenford, Stanley's dissolute only son, in gambling debt up to his eyeballs, is the thieves' secret weapon. As designer of the lab's security system, computer-savvy Kit knows how to get the gang in to steal the vaccine, a service that will supposedly wipe out his debt. He will, however, have to sneak away from the annual holiday gathering of the clan, a large cast including his two sisters, their mates, their children, stepchildren, and significant-other-children. Toni, who was supposed to be on a spa holiday with her chums, learns at the last moment that her useless sister will be unable to take care oftheir addled mum and is conveniently in the neighborhood when the thieves, who may be after more than vaccine, make it into the lab's inner reaches. Follett's trademark tension and breakneck pace manage (just barely) to overshadow the YA prose. Agents: Al Zuckerman, Amy Berkower/Writers House
From the Publisher
Praise for Whiteout

"A blizzard of treachery and violence . . . an adrenaline-pumping thriller." —The Associated Press

"[A] feverish plot." —Rocky Mountain News

"Movie-style twists and hairbreadth escapes." —The Wall Street Journal

"Undeniably suspenseful." —Entertainment Weekly

"Scary . . . provides a rush of fear." —New York Post

"Almost nonstop action with a plausible and sufficiently frightening plot . . . a page-turner, pure and simple." —The Tennessean

"Follett goes down a high-concept road. . . . [He] handles the tension of the circumstances nicely." —San Francisco Chronicle

"A literate, plausible, suspenseful tale that keeps you turning pages well past bedtime." —The Raleigh News & Observer

"A new breed of thriller . . . an agonizingly protracted, nail-biter ending drags readers to the very edge of their seats and holds them captive until the last villain is satisfactorily dispatched." —Publishers Weekly

"Follett's sure hand at the controls of a high-octane plot delivers the expected thrills." —Booklist

"Exciting? Absolutely. . . . Follett makes the formula work with his trademark strong females, large cast of characters, and race-against-the-clock pace . . . high-speed escapism." —Library Journal

"Follett's trademark tension and breakneck pacing." —Kirkus Reviews

"Exciting." —The Kansas City Star

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.18(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

TWO tired men looked at Antonia Gallo with resentment and hostility in their eyes. They wanted to go home, but she would not let them. And they knew she was right, which made it worse.

All three were in the personnel department of Oxenford Medical. Antonia, always called Toni, was facilities director, and her main responsibility was security. Oxenford was a small pharmaceuticals outfit-a boutique company, in stock market jargon-that did research on viruses that could kill. Security was deadly serious.

Toni had organized a spot check of supplies, and had found that two doses of an experimental drug were missing. That was bad enough: the drug, an antiviral agent, was top secret, its formula priceless. It might have been stolen for sale to a rival company. But another, more frightening possibility had brought the look of grim anxiety to Toni's freckled face and drawn dark circles under her green eyes. A thief might have stolen the drug for personal use. And there was only one reason for that: someone had become infected by one of the lethal viruses used in Oxenford's laboratories.

The labs were located in a vast nineteenth-century house built as a Scottish holiday home for a Victorian millionaire. It was nicknamed the Kremlin, because of the double row of fencing, the razor wire, the uniformed guards, and the state-of-the-art electronic security. But it looked more like a church, with pointed arches and a tower and rows of gargoyles along the roof.

The personnel office had been one of the grander bedrooms. It still had Gothic windows and linenfold paneling, but now there were filing cabinets instead of wardrobes, and desks with computers and phoneswhere once there had been dressing tables crowded with crystal bottles and silver-backed brushes.

Toni and the two men were working the phones, calling everyone who had a pass to the top- security laboratory. There were four biosafety levels. At the highest, BSL4, the scientists worked in space suits, handling viruses for which there was no vaccine or antidote. Because it was the most secure location in the building, samples of the experimental drug were stored there.

Not everyone was allowed into BSL4. Biohazard training was compulsory, even for the maintenance men who went in to service air filters and repair autoclaves. Toni herself had undergone the training, so that she could enter the lab to check on security.

Only twenty-seven of the company's staff of eighty had access. However, many had already departed for the Christmas vacation, and Monday had turned into Tuesday while the three people responsible doggedly tracked them down.

Toni got through to a resort in Barbados called Le Club Beach and, after much insistence, persuaded the assistant manager to go looking for a young laboratory technician called Jenny Crawford.

As Toni waited, she glanced at her reflection in the window. She was holding up well, considering the late hour. Her chocolate-brown chalk-stripe suit still looked businesslike, her thick hair was tidy, her face did not betray fatigue. Her father had been Spanish, but she had her Scottish mother's pale skin and red-blond hair. She was tall and looked fit. Not bad, she thought, for thirty-eight years old.

"It must be the middle of the night back there!" Jenny said when at last she came to the phone.

"We've discovered a discrepancy in the BSL4 log," Toni explained.

Jenny was a little drunk. "That's happened before," she said carelessly. "But no one's ever made, like, a great big drama over it."

"That's because I wasn't working here," Toni said crisply. "When was the last time you entered BSL4?"

"Tuesday, I think. Won't the computer tell you that?"

It would, but Toni wanted to know whether Jenny's story would match the computer record. "And when was the last time you accessed the vault?" The vault was a locked refrigerator within BSL4.

Jenny's tone was becoming surly. "I really don't remember, but it will be on video." The touch-pad combination lock on the vault activated a security camera that rolled the entire time the door was open.

"Do you recall the last time you used Madoba-2?" This was the virus the scientists were working on right now.

Jenny was shocked. "Bloody hell, is that what's gone missing?"

"No, it's not. All the same-"

"I don't think I've ever handled an actual virus. I mostly work in the tissue-culture lab."

That agreed with the information Toni had. "Have you noticed any of your colleagues behaving in a way that was strange, or out of character, in the last few weeks?"

"This is like the sodding Gestapo," Jenny said.

"Be that as it may, have you-"

"No, I have not."

"Just one more question. Is your temperature normal?"

"Fuck me, are you saying I might have Madoba-2?"

"Have you got a cold or fever?"


"Then you're all right. You left the country eleven days ago-by now you would have flu- like symptoms if anything were wrong. Thank you, Jenny. It's probably just an error in the log, but we have to make sure."

"Well, you've spoiled my night." Jenny hung up.

"Shame," Toni said to the dead phone. She cradled the receiver and said, "Jenny Crawford checks out. A cow, but straight."

The laboratory director was Howard McAlpine. His bushy gray beard grew high on his cheekbones, so that the skin around his eyes looked like a pink mask. He was meticulous without being prissy, and Toni normally enjoyed working with him, but now he was bad-tempered. He leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. "The overwhelming likelihood is that the material unaccounted for was used perfectly legitimately by someone who simply forgot to make entries in the log." His tone of voice was testy: he had said this twice before.

"I hope you're right," Toni said noncommittally. She got up and went to the window. The personnel office overlooked the extension that housed the BSL4 laboratory. The new building seemed similar to the rest of the Kremlin, with barley-sugar chimneys and a clock tower; so that it would be difficult for an outsider to guess, from a distance, where in the complex the high- security lab was located. But its arched windows were opaque, the carved oak doors could not be opened, and closed-circuit television cameras gazed one-eyed from the monstrous heads of the gargoyles. It was a concrete blockhouse in Victorian disguise. The new building was on three levels. The labs were on the ground floor. As well as research space and storage, there was an intensive-care medical isolation facility for anyone who became infected with a dangerous virus. It had never been used. On the floor above was the air-handling equipment. Below, elaborate machinery sterilized all waste coming from the building. Nothing left the place alive, except human beings.

"We've learned a lot from this exercise," Toni said in a placatory tone. She was in a delicate position, she thought anxiously. The two men were senior to her in rank and age-both were in their fifties. Although she had no right to give them orders, she had insisted they treat the discrepancy as a crisis. They both liked her, but she was stretching their goodwill to the limit. Still, she felt she had to push it. At stake were public safety, the company's reputation, and her career. "In future we must always have live phone numbers for everyone who has access to BSL4, wherever in the world they might be, so that we can reach them quickly in an emergency. And we need to audit the log more than once a year."

McAlpine grunted. As lab director he was responsible for the log, and the real reason for his mood was that he should have discovered the discrepancy himself. Toni's efficiency made him look bad.

She turned to the other man, who was the director of human resources. "How far down your list are we, James?"

James Elliot looked up from his computer screen. He dressed like a stockbroker, in a pin- striped suit and spotted tie, as if to distinguish himself from the tweedy scientists. He seemed to regard the safety rules as tiresome bureaucracy, perhaps because he never worked hands-on with viruses. Toni found him pompous and silly. "We've spoken to all but one of the twenty-seven staff that have access to BSL4," he said. He spoke with exaggerated precision, like a tired teacher explaining something to the dullest pupil in the class. "All of them told the truth about when they last entered the lab and opened the vault. None has noticed a colleague behaving strangely. And no one has a fever."

"Who's the missing one?"

"Michael Ross, a lab technician."

"I know Michael," Toni said. He was a shy, clever man about ten years younger than Toni. "In fact I've been to his home. He lives in a cottage about fifteen miles from here."

"He's worked for the company for eight years without a blemish on his record."

McAlpine ran his finger down a printout and said, "He last entered the lab three Sundays ago, for a routine check on the animals."

"What's he been doing since?"


"For how long-three weeks?"

Elliot put in, "He was due back today." He looked at his watch. "Yesterday, I should say. Monday morning. But he didn't show up."

"Did he call in sick?"


Toni raised her eyebrows. "And we can't reach him?"

"No answer from his home phone or his mobile."

"Doesn't that strike you as odd?"

"That a single young man should extend his vacation without forewarning his employer? About as odd as rain in Glen Coe."

Toni turned back to McAlpine. "But you say Michael has a good record."

The lab director looked worried. "He's very conscientious. It's surprising that he should take unauthorized leave."

Toni asked, "Who was with Michael when he last entered the lab?" She knew he must have been accompanied, for there was a two-person rule in BSL4: because of the danger, no one could work there alone.

McAlpine consulted his list. "Dr. Ansari, a biochemist."

"I don't think I know him."

"Her. It's a woman. Monica."

Toni picked up the phone. "What's her number?"

Monica Ansari spoke with an Edinburgh accent and sounded as if she had been fast asleep. "Howard McAlpine called me earlier, you know."

"I'm sorry to trouble you again."

"Has something happened?"

"It's about Michael Ross. We can't track him down. I believe you were in BSL4 with him two weeks ago last Sunday."

"Yes. Just a minute, let me put the light on." There was a pause. "God, is that the time?"

Toni pressed on. "Michael went on holiday the next day."

"He told me he was going to see his mother in Devon."

That rang a bell. Toni recalled the reason she had gone to Michael Ross's house. About six months ago she had mentioned, in a casual conversation in the canteen, how much she liked Rembrandt's pictures of old women, with every crease and wrinkle lovingly detailed. You could tell, she had said, how much Rembrandt must have loved his mother. Michael had lit up with enthusiasm and revealed that he had copies of several Rembrandt etchings, cut out of magazines and auction house catalogues. She went home with him after work to see the pictures, all of old women, tastefully framed and covering one wall of his small living room. She worried that he was going to ask her for a date-she liked him, but not that way-but, to her relief, he genuinely wanted only to show off his collection. He was, she had concluded, a mother's boy.

"That's helpful," Toni said to Monica. "Just hold on." She turned to James Elliot. "Do we have his mother's contact details on file?"

Elliot moved his mouse and clicked. "She's listed as next of kin." He picked up the phone.
Toni spoke to Monica again. "Did Michael seem his normal self that afternoon?"


"Did you enter BSL4 together?"

"Yes. Then we went to separate changing rooms, of course."

"When you entered the lab itself, was he already there?"

"Yes, he changed quicker than I did."

"Did you work alongside him?"

"No. I was in a side lab, dealing with tissue cultures. He was checking on the animals."

"Did you leave together?"

"He went a few minutes before I did."

"It sounds to me as if he could have accessed the vault without your knowing about it."


"What's your impression of Michael?"

"He's all right...inoffensive, I suppose."

"Yeah, that's a good word for him. Do you know if he has a girlfriend?"

"I don't think so."

"Do you find him attractive?"

"Nice-looking, but not sexy."

Toni smiled. "Exactly. Anything odd about him, in your experience?"


Toni sensed a hesitation, and remained silent, giving the other woman time. Beside her, Elliot was speaking to someone, asking for Michael Ross or his mother.

After a moment, Monica said, "I mean, the fact that someone lives alone doesn't make them a nutcase, does it?"

Beside Toni, Elliot was saying into the phone, "How very strange. I'm sorry to have troubled you so late at night."

Toni's curiosity was piqued by what she could hear of Elliot's conversation. She ended her call, saying, "Thanks again, Monica. I hope you get back to sleep all right."

"My husband's a family doctor," she said. "We're used to phone calls in the middle of the night."

Toni hung up. "Michael Ross had plenty of time to open the vault," she said. "And he lives alone." She looked at Elliot. "Did you reach his mother's house?"

"It's an old folks' home," Elliot said. He looked frightened. "And Mrs. Ross died last winter."

"Oh, shit," said Toni.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"An adrenaline pumping thriller." —Associated Press
"Movie-style twists and hairbreadth escapes." —Wall Street Journal
"Undeniably suspenseful." —Entertainment Weekly

Meet the Author

Ken Follett is one of the world’s best-loved authors, selling more than 160 million copies of his thirty books. Follett’s first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War. 
In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published, and has since become the author's most successful novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Its sequel, World Without End, proved equally popular, and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide. The third book, A Column of Fire, will be published by Viking in Fall 2017.
Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.

Brief Biography

Hertfordshire, England
Date of Birth:
June 5, 1949
Place of Birth:
Cardiff, Wales
B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970

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Whiteout 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
WaldoT More than 1 year ago
Ken Follett never disappoints! Great story and characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lis76 More than 1 year ago
I normally love Ken Follett books. However, this one had my eyes rolling. I will say, I did listen to the audio book version as we were on a long car ride and my husband loves audio books - I prefer reading. Anyway, I thought it was really cheesy. A disappointment from one of my favorites.
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