Taylor Trade Publishing; 1/7/2014
Hardcover, 256 pages
Modern-day Rome: Two American archaeologists suddenly die in an underground passageway in the Roman Forum leading to the buried rooms of Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace. The Italian authorities conclude the deaths were caused by a devastating and highly contagious virus. Tom Stewart, an NYU forensic archaeologist who was present when the deaths occurred, becomes entangled in the race to find the supply of the virus—a race involving many powerful players desperately seeking the deadly contagion. Stewart must find and destroy the virus before others harness its sinister power.
My Thoughts:The Vatican, foreign groups, the world’s largest genetic seed manufacturer—all have their reasons, and none will stop until they succeed, no matter the cost or risk to millions of people if the virus escapes and causes a pandemic.
In The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland forensic archaeologist Tom Stewart has been invited by friend and fellow American, Doc Brown, to witness the excavation of an underground passage discovered that could lead to the rooms of Emperor Nero’s fabled imperial palace, called the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House. Instead of witnessing the pinnacle of his friend's career, Tom instead is there for his death when Doc and a colleague mysteriously die a quick but torturous death. Their bodies are recovered, contorted from the pain and with a green dust on them.
As the bodies are taken away by men in full Hazmat suits to the Communicable Substances Lab, Tom suspects that what killed them was very lethal and highly contagious. Then what happened is explained as a cave-in, clearly in an attempt to cover up the truth. It soon becomes clear to Tom that what his friend Doc uncovered was a source for a mysterious virus, the Moses Virus, which is so deadly it kills almost immediately and could be lethal for the human race if it should accidentally be released again.
Because Tom had his picture taken with Doc before the excavation, suddenly he finds himself in great danger, as he is being watched and threatened by what may be several different men. So, while Tom tries to figure out what the virus is, where it came from, and where it is now, he must also evade what seem to be representatives from several sources that are tracking him, and trying to discover whatever information he uncovers. And anyone he talks to may not be safe either.
Hyland does an excellent job describing and capturing the setting as Tom tries to unravel the mystery and discover what really happened to his friend Doc in this thriller. It is a given that I will pretty much read any book about any plague you can throw at me, so The Moses Virus was an obvious choice. After a quick start, the writing becomes uneven, eventually picking up again toward the end. Because it's not a long novel, though, you can read through the uneven bits quickly to get back to more action. Hyland does have an interesting twist so the pursuers may not be who you think they are at first.
highly recommended for escapism
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Taylor Trade Publishing via Netgalley for review purposes.
This morning Tom was going to the Palatine Hill in the Roman Forum. Doc Brown, a professor of archaeology, a member of the Academy, and an old friend, invited him to observe the excavation of an underground passage discovered last year. If his theory was correct, it could lead to the rooms of Emperor Nero’s fabled imperial palace, called the Domus Aurea, or the Golden House. If he was right, it would be a find of historic proportions. Tom was excited for the opportunity that promised to be the crowning glory of his friend’s career. Location 38
Part of Rome’s magic for Tom was that its many layers of past, present, and future were all jumbled together. Standing high on the hill overlooking the piazza was the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, ridiculed for years as resembling a white wedding cake, yet important for honoring the first king of a united Italy in 1861. Behind the monument lay the Roman Forum, once the center of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. On the same square, in the Renaissance Palazzo Venezia, Mussolini had had his headquarters. In the ancient palazzo, a photographer was busy shooting an impossibly thin model for some chic fashion magazine. Location 46
“It was dark and narrow. I called to them as I went through the tunnel. I saw a light. The tunnel got bigger. I kept calling. Then, I saw them. They were on the floor in a large room. I shouted. I shone the light on their faces. They were covered with some kind of . . . green dust. Their eyes were wide open like they had seen something horrible.”
“And? What else?”
Greg stared up. “They’re dead.” Location 139
“I’m Lieutenant Giovanni Gabrielli from the Italian Environmental Protection Command,” he said in English, extending his hand. “My sympathies for the loss of your colleagues. We’re here to assess the situation.” Two men emerged from the Unimog, tethered to the vehicle with long lines feeding them oxygen. The lines unspooled as they walked. The men were garbed in full white Hazmat suits and gloves. The police officers directed them to the passageway at the site. Gabrielli, Tom, and Alex followed close behind. “These men are equipped with a video data line so that we’ll be able to see exactly what’s in the tunnel. We can observe it on this mobile monitor,” Gabrielli said, pointing to small flat screen set up on a cart near the opening. Location 170
The article went on but had no further information of consequence. Cave-in? Tom thought. There was no evidence of a cave-in. Tom felt troubled. What could the reason be for covering up the truth of what had happened yesterday in the Forum? Location 263
“There’s got to be more to it,” Alex said. “Sealing the passageway and stopping excavation—very unusual. And assigning someone from the Communicable Substances Lab? It may be that what killed Doc and Eric was not only very lethal but highly contagious. Remember the green dust that Greg mentioned? Maybe it’s involved somehow.” Location 421
“You could say Moses was the first leader to use plagues as weapons against his enemy. Essentially biological warfare.” Location 433