4 out of 4 stars
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Besides the bragging rights, Ahmed couldn't care less for a doctorate. The stark differences between American and Pakistani culture were making his stay in the country miserable. Back home, he could accurately gauge a person's social status by their dressing; in contrast, the casual style of most Americans irked him. But not as much deferring to superior women. If only his graduate advisor were nicer, perhaps he would overlook all the other issues, but Professor Naga is a thorn in his flesh and the feeling was mutual. Despite their bitter entanglement, none could rid himself of the other. The intricacies of the American society proved too much for his Pakistani palate and he hatched an escape plan, but not before teaching Professor Naga a lesson. His meticulously orchestrated plan to pilfer the samples of their joint research turned out better than he expected. In the same freezer housing the samples lay a box with ten small vials containing the faecal samples of a viral cattle disease that could change the world forever if it gets into the wrong hands.
Stolen Virus by Gary F. Jones was first published in 2016 under the name: A Jerk, a Jihad, and a Virus. Gary is an accomplished veterinary doctor and microbiologist and his vast knowledge of the field comes to the fore in this scientific espionage novel. He courts a reader's interest by building suspense and breaking down complex scientific terms and research processes into fascinating and digestible chunks for a layperson.
I enjoyed learning about animal viruses, and the potential effects of their transmission to humans. There is so much I didn't know about the SARS virus because it didn't affect my country and I appreciate the information I gleaned on the subject. I looked up some details in the book and it tallies with publicly available data. Also, I'm glad that he didn't present any of the scientific details in a teach-y manner; rather they just flow seamlessly with the narrative.
For me, characters are the mainstay of fiction, and I loved how solid and balanced the characters in the book were. Ann and Jason were super endearing. Their work and relationship struggles are realistic and relatable.
All thrown together, clean rooms, labs, faecal samples and vials, deadly viruses, the CIA's far-reaching tentacles, spies, impassioned jihadists, frustrated professors, romance, research processes, the stark landscape, and scorching Yemen weather makes for a thrilling read.
Other than the portrayal of Ahmed's character being overboard, I loved the story. Conclusively, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. It is well done and executed with a stated timeframe of events and locations. Lastly, the editing is clean and professional. The plot will resonate with espionage, medical fiction, and adventure fans. It does contain profanities and violent scenes, though.
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