cover image Child Zero

Child Zero

Chris Holm. Mulholland, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-29512-3

Could a future pandemic be exponentially worse that Covid-19? Holm (Red Right Hand) answers yes in this alarmingly plausible thriller. Public health officials dismiss a dramatic global increase in bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics, initially unaware the phenomenon results from the release of an ancient virus from the permafrost due to global warming. The virus infects bacteria across the globe in weeks and leaves medicine helpless as the new combinations render antibiotics not only obsolete but dangerous because continued use of them risks creating an even deadlier viral variant. The collapse of the “antibiotic era” means the resurgence of dormant diseases, as well as the end of surgical implants and organ transplants, since the risk of postoperative infections is too great. The crisis leads to the creation of an ultra-powerful American agency, the Department of Biological Security, which mandates citizens to report anyone suspected of having a high fever. Against this Orwellian background, NYPD Det. Jacob Gibson, a widower, must both care for his ill daughter and probe a massacre in Central Park that may have implications for the global health crisis. Holm perfectly balances plot, characterizations, and science. Fans of Lawrence Wright’s The End of October won’t want to miss this one. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Co. (May)