It’s the story of Andy Reiss, an infectious disease doctor who retired early after selling the patent for early diagnosis of Lyme Disease. He and his wife Jesse, a former nurse, their daughter Rachel and dog Reggie set sail on their boat, The Prophecy, to travel the world.
When readers meet them, they’ve been sailing five years and are debating whether to continue or return to land and set down roots. Their decision seals their fate and puts them on a collision course for the disaster that will unfold.
It’s a slow journey to their destination, beset with detours due to dangerous storms and boat problems that cause them to dock in Mexico for repairs. Another storm forces them to head for Cuba.
Off the Cuban coast they encounter a shipwreck. Being considerate sailors, the Reiss family pulls close to the boat and Andy boards it. When he finds the passengers, a young man and woman, the doctor in him knows they are ill. But he also realizes there is more to the discovery than two people with fevers and possible dehydration.
There are blood spatters everywhere on the boat, the young man has blood on his face, and the captain of the boat is nowhere to be found. Andy Reiss leaves a message on the boat that he is taking the young man and woman aboard The Prophecy. When he does, Reggie the dog gives us a warning that the couple may not be as innocent and helpless as they look – he growls every time he sees them.
The Prophecy story pauses here, to give insight into the young man and woman, who are in fact brother and sister, Ryan and Nicole, from Berkeley, California. We read of them in 2007, when their father was arrested as being an al-Qaeda sympathizer. He is killed and his bitter children vow to avenge his death. They eventually hatch a plan to infect the United States with a disease by infecting themselves and thus spreading it.
They travel from Berkeley to Trinidad and hire a Captain Mendoza to sail them to Cuba, then Florida. But something goes awry…and thast story slowly unfolds further.
Another jump in time takes readers back to 1966 Iraq – early Saddam Hussein times – and a virologist named Kamal Yamin. As his story continues, his son is killed by U.S. soldiers. We jump ahead to 1996 and his being asked to develop a strain of smallpox beyond anything seen before. He, too, is bent on revenge and open to the request.
These back stories are confusing at first – so many changes in time and place. But they are necessary in order to increase Deadly Passage’s thrilling tension, as all the characters’ lives begin to overlap.
When Dr. Andy Reiss realizes that Ryan and Nicole have smallpox and worse yet, that his daughter has also become infected, he notifies authorities. This adds another element of non-stop, frightening adventure.
The book starts slow and even though a quick read of the back cover reveals a brief synopsis, there are some “false alarms” as the reader waits for the real action to begin. It’s a thought-provoking book about homegrown terrorists in our post-9/11 world.
Author Lawrence W. Gold, M.D. seems a natural to have written this well-plotted novel, having been a doctor himself, in Berkeley, and having set sail with his own wife and their cat for a voyage that no doubt inspired (though peacefully) the Deadly Passage story. He is so knowledgeable that there might be a little too much information on smallpox and how to possibly infect a population, and the sailing references and terms were over this reviewer’s head. These are minor details, though.
It’s a very fascinating book and once all plot points are established, readers will not want to put it down.
Review published simultaneously at www.bookpleasures.com.