Tim Downs,
Plague Maker
(West Bow, 2006)

This is a top-notch thriller. It rekindles one's faith in writers of true page-turner novels. From the opening lines to the final outcome, the reader wants to know more, wants to anticipate twists and turns, and most importantly wants the hero to prevail.

Author Tim Downs has provided us with a set of characters that are well drawn but not overdrawn. All too often a novel can get bogged down in minutiae of the characters, such as what coffee they drink or the colour of the heroine's underwear. That does not happen here, but even so we are deeply interested in Nathan Donovan, his ex-wife Macy and the mysterious Li.

The novel works very well on a number of levels. It takes in the post-9/11 paranoia. It has the all-too-common tensions between ex-partners but does not labour it. There is the procedural police or investigative novel with all the ingredients we are so familiar with from television shows like CSI.

But Plague Maker adds to this mix with sparks of philosophy, science and history. In doing this Downs has a very light touch. We may not get a doctorate in any of the disciplines broached, but neither does he beat us to death with reams of facts and figures. Whether he is effortlessly giving us a potted history from decades ago or centuries past he puts the narrative into the mouth of the protagonist and we absorb it without a blink.

Reviewing a thriller is fraught with dangers. You want to give a feeling of the story but you do not want to spoil the twists and turns and especially the outcome. I was impressed by the way Downs managed to give us a vivid picture of the dispersal of the plague and I promise potential readers that does not spoil the story for you.

If you like action, believable characters, humour and learning something while enjoying a read this is the book for you.

The blurb tells us that Downs has a few other books in print. I bet that like me, you will be eager to read them as soon as you finish this excellent book.

by Nicky Rossiter
28 October 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.