Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tranquility Initiative by Joan Meijer

Tranquility InitiativeI received this book for review a few weeks ago, and read through it the last couple of days. In this novel, the United States is involved in another one of those "unwinnable" wars in Astrakhan, a breakaway Soviet Islamic country. President Anderson is facing a difficult re-election campaign, and meets with his advisors to come up with a strategy for getting the troops out with a victory. One of the advisors suggests the Tranquility Initiative, which the president approves without getting any details. As it turns out, the Tranquility Initiative is the use of germ warfare, the release of a weaponized pulmonary anthrax strain to devastate the enemy.

The advisor, Donald Finnegan, is also a member of a secret group called Medici, whose members all belonged to a Special Forces squad in the Gulf War that participated in a massacre of a civilian village - and liked it a little too much. They formed a shadowy group within our government after the war to do whatever it took to defeat America's enemies, and they all wear special rings. I thought this group seemed just a little too stereotypically "baby killer" to be believable, but it works to drive the plot along.

The bombs containing the anthrax are delivered to a base in Turkey, and the mission is flown to deliver them to Astrakhan. Unfortunately for the pilots on that mission, Billy Williams, one of them recognizes the bombs for what they are as they're being loaded. His father and grandfather were bioweapons researchers working at Ft. Detrick, and he even has a model one of these bombs he used to play with as a child; they look exactly like red, white and blue bowling pins. Now that he knows, the Medici obviously have to kill him, and a fighter jet follows the bomber, blowing it out of the sky after it has delivered the payload, very effectively silencing a potential whistle blower. In a massive display of overkill, the Medici also blow up the barracks at the military base, killing all potential witnesses to the departure of the bomber.

What no one realizes in time, however, is that spies on the base managed to sneak away a pair of the bombs, delivering them eventually to the Astrakhan rebels. They don't know exactly what they have, but they know they're bombs, so they send a terrorist team into the United States to set off the bombs there in revenge for what the Americans have done to their country. The terrorists are a bit inept, and while disassembling one of the bombs, they release the anthrax bacteria in the heart of New York City, infecting themselves and dozens of other people.

From this point onwards, it's a race against time for the authorities and medical experts to diagnose the disease, figure out that it's a bioweapon, and locate and stop the terrorists before they can detonate the second bomb over a wider area, creating a devastating epidemic.

One of the main characters in the book is Cassandra Williams, sister of Billy, who is a doctor with the CDC, originally sent to study the anthrax outbreak in Astrakhan, who has returned to the U.S. just in time for the New York City incident. She is extraordinarily competent and serendipitously gorgeous, and she is doggedly tenacious in interviewing the victims to discover the origin of the disease. While she is doing this, Medici is trying to cover their tracks, killing off anyone who might talk about the Tranquility initiative, or be able to identify this particular strain of anthrax as having come from U.S. biolabs, which includes Cassandra's father.

Overall, this was a pretty good read, if you suspend your disbelief enough to credit the whole conspiracy theory idea of the secret military organization willing to murder its own troops and its own citizens to destroy the enemies of the U.S. and keep things quiet. It had some likeable heroes, good action sequences, and a really good "reveal" at the end.

No comments: