The First Horseman by John Case was originally published in 1998. My hardcover copy has 325 pages. "John Case" is a pseudonym for the husband and wife writing team of Jim Hougan and Carolyn Hougan. The First Horseman is a fast paced novel of suspense, but it's also a medical thriller tied into investigative reporting. The one chilling detail that makes this novel so good is that using the flu as a weapon in bioterrorism is a clear and realistic threat. The plot is a little predictable and not all the characters are finely developed, but this was an enjoyable book and I highly recommend it. Rating: 4.
Synopsis from the Publisher:
In the Book of Revelations, the Four Horsemen herald the arrival of the Apocalypse. When the First Horseman thunders forth, pestilence will spread throughout the land. For the First Horseman is Plague...
The Spanish Flu killed thirty million people worldwide in 1918. Now with history threatening to repeat itself, a scientific expedition speeds toward a remote island in the Arctic Sea to recover strains of the lethal virus preserved under layers of ice. For Washington Post reporter Frank Daly, it is the story of a lifetime. But his plan to join the expedition is ruined by a ferocious storm that delays him. And when he meets up with the ship upon its return to port in Norway, it is clear something has gone wrong.
Fear haunts the faces of the crew. No one will talk. And someone wants Daly to stop asking questions.
"Tommy was nervous. Susannah could tell, because she knew he liked to talk, and yet, he hadn't said a word for fifty miles." opening sentences
"Killing someone was dead wrong -
Unless you were a soldier. And that's exactly what they were..." pg. 5
"Daunting from the outside, the building's interior was terrifying - a makeshift morgue paved with the cadavers of men, women, and children whose blistered limbs had turned a startling blue in the days before their deaths." pg. 14
"And though he knew what the pictures represented - a massacre - he also knew that because he was the first to notice it, he'd get a lot of credit." pg. 26
"But the plague took twenty years to do what it did. The Spanish flu killed twenty or thirty million people in twelve months." pg. 37
"Now, almost sixty years later, Annie and Doctor K were after a different kind of buried treasure: a virus so virulent and contagious that it might serve as a standard against which all others should be measured." pg. 57
"Listening was an art, and Frank was a genius at it. People told him things because he was totally simpatico - whatever they had to say, he understood. He got the text, and the subtext." pg. 92
"And the palm trees - what good were they, anyway? They were skinny and straight and they didn't really give you any shade. They just stood there, next to the street, like a row of disappointments." pg. 110