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By Ken Follett

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By Ken Follett
Wheeler Publishing, (2005)
Large Print Edition
ISBN: 1-58724-869-7
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 28, 2005

Ken Follett's Whiteout is an eccentric thriller with deadly implications. Antonia "Toni" Gallo, the security director at Oxenford Medical, has a problem. She has discovered that two doses of an experimental drug designed to treat the deadly virus Madoba-2, has gone missing. Worse, she discovers that Michael Ross, one of the company's lab technicians is bleeding from every orifice, alongside of a dead rabbit. This is a sinister development as Madoba-2 just happens to be an especially virulent strain of Ebola.

Toni is an ex-police officer, and she was Scotland's First Chief Constable. She was forced into retirement after an inter-office conflict. When she left the force, her then boyfriend, Frank Hackett, left her. When Stanley Oxenford, a research scientist and owner of Oxenford Medical hired her on as a security consultant, she soon discovered that she had found a job that she was passionate about. She takes the breach in security that led to Ross' illness as a personal failure, and is determined to find out all she can about how he became ill - and its meaning. Her investigation into Ross' actions lead her into the dangerous worlds of industrial espionage and bioterrorism.

The discovery of the missing doses and the dying lab tech occurred shortly before Christmas. When Stanley Oxenford heads to Steepfall, his family estate located in northern Scotland, he asks Toni to join him so that they can plan on how to deal with the public relations nightmare that Ross' actions have caused. There Toni is reintroduced to Stanley's son, Kit, whom she had previously caught stealing from the company. Unbeknownst to her, he has just lead a raid on the Kremlin, as the Oxenford research facility is commonly called, that resulted in samples of the Madoba-2 virus being stolen. He had been put up to this crime by a mobster, to whom Kit owes for enormous gambling debts, and he hopes by helping them commit this crime that they will forgive his debts and give him enough money enable him to start a new life somewhere far away from his family.

This is a nail-biting story that will have you on the edge of your seat. The motives of the characters are fully delineated and each is uniquely drawn. With the exception of a few holes on the technical side, such as their being reprogramable security entrance keys to a Level 4 Bio-Hazzard lab, the plot is believable. Follett has interwoven a number of subplots to this story, including one with an obnoxious television reporter out for the next big disaster scoop, one with Toni's abrasive ex who seems to venomously hate her, and a growing romance between Toni and the much older Stanley. Toni is hampered in her investigation of the crime by her ex, Frank, who is now a Police Superintendent and with whom Toni has to work with to track down the missing stocks. Follett further hampers the characters, both the good guys and the bad, by hitting Scotland with a Christmas blizzard.

As the story spirals to its climatic finish, almost everyone concerned converges at Steepfall. Whiteout is an entertaining, quick read, with a strong female lead. Strong or not, does Toni have what it takes to put the virus back in the box once it is set free? Follett will keep you guessing until the very end, wether or not the bad guys will get away with their deadly booty.

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