The Pinocchio Syndrome
Freelance public health reporter Karen Embry stumbles onto the story of her life in this far-fetched political thriller by debut novelist Zeman. The American cruise ship Crescent Queen has been zapped by a nuclear missile in a presumed terrorist attack, and the U.S. government has yet to identify the perpetrators. Soon afterward, people around the world begin to succumb to a mysterious illness that seals them in a zombie-like coma. Doctors and scientists are baffled. Then the disease strikes the vice-president, Dan Everhard, the brains behind the current presidential administration. Without him, the unnamed president, whose popularity has already plummeted since the Crescent incident, is all the more vulnerable to the attacks of Colin Goss, an ultra-right-wing billionaire vying for the presidency. His platform consists of one plank: death to terrorists. Coming to the rescue of a floundering administration is charismatic Maryland senator Michael Campbell ("Michael had a near-perfect body for a man of his age"). Secret Service agent Joseph Kraig ("He liked to immerse himself in the longer Dostoyevski novels, and sometimes even read Shakespeare") rounds out the cast as he investigates the illness and eventually must save Campbell's kidnapped wife. Embry's story about the public health crisis becomes an investigative coup de grace revealing the evil Goss's ultimate goal: "World domination." The plot leaps from one improbable scenario to another, heedless of common sense. The characters barely achieve one dimension, the plot turns are preposterous and the sex scenes, of which there are scores, are laughable: "He would enter her gently and stroke her with himself until her sex was literally aflame." Ouch, that's got to hurt. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. This political thriller begins at sea, where a cruise ship and all its passengers are vaporized, along with the ship itself, in a hydrogen-bomb explosion. Flash forward six months: an Iowa mail carrier is struck immobile in the middle of the street. In rapid succession, we meet an assortment of characters; some of them (like the vice president of the U.S.) will be victims of this strange affliction; others (like journalist Karen Embry and Secret Service agent Joseph Kraig) will risk their lives to discover the secret of the epidemic and--this will come as no surprise to the veteran reader--the political conspiracy that lurks in the background. The author sticks closely to formula: open with some mysterious goings-on and a frightening disease; introduce the heroes and villains; construct an elaborate conspiracy; and bring it all together in a rousing finale. The formula serves him well enough, and he pushes all the right buttons, but the novel suffers a bit from its tired subject matter. Derivative but readable. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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