The Deadly Trade
Ken Morris
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The Deadly Trade

Ken Morris
Bancroft Press
366 pages
March 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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From the first page to the last, I found the suspense through this second book by Ken Morris strikes like lightning. In a treacherous theme that ties the stock market to bioterrorism, recovering alcoholic Tim Mack takes up a new position as a financial analyst for a high-finance broker which he discovers is linked to a biotechnology company in San Diego that mysteriously explodes. Those first on the scene die shortly afterwards from unknown causes that suggest a lethal virus was unleashed during the blast.

Just skimming through the chapters, the heading treatments reveal an accelerating plot rushing to beat a catastrophic deadline like the television series ď24". Based on day-to-day and then hour-to-hour events, the novel opens on a street where the homeless live. Three men are promised fifty dollars each if they can drink each other under the table at a party. This seduces them into a van that takes them to a lab where they are exposed to tainted air while eating porridge. The next day, local detective Bob Moore is faced with three John Doe bodies found together, and forensics canít figure out how they died such horrendous deaths. Is it murder, or is it a sign of a twenty-first century plague about to befall California?

At the same time, Mack begins his investigation into suspicious trading events of Isotopic Research, a drug company whose stock plunges after its research lab explodes and kills the scientists working inside. This sets up the plot that races to D-Day, Tuesday, February 6. Mack is trapped inside his firmís building where the deadly virus is to be launched and spread through the victims who inhale it, infect everyone who comes in contact with them and then die, thus killing thousands of people within twenty-four hours. The ďanthrax testĒ must prove its intensified toxic power to Middle Eastern terrorists before they will pay for its delivery. Will Mack survive in time to save San Diego from a terrible disaster? It's a cliffhanger right up to the reveal of the unexpected mastermind behind the deadly drug deal.

Morrisí vision of real possibilities is horrifying. Itís also what makes his second novel a riveting page-turner.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bonnie Toews, 2004

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