Whiteout

by

Author: Ken Follett
Title: Whiteout
Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: 2004
Number of Pages: 400 pgs. (Large Type edition 623 pgs.)
Geographical Setting: Scotland
Time Period: Contemporary/2000’s
Series (If applicable): N/A
Plot Summary: Set in rural Scotland, Oxenford Laboratories is a small pharmaceutical research lab founded by Stanley Oxenford, inventor of an anti-viral vaccine. Toni Gallo, Security Director, discovers a security breach at Oxenford Laboratories after spot-checking a security log before leaving for Christmas break. Toni discovers an employee sympatric with animal rights activists stole a rabbit infected with Madoba–2, a variant of Ebola, intending on giving the rabbit the anti-viral vaccine to save its life. However, the rabbit bit the employee and we discover that this serum is not effective against Madoba-2 as the employee dies just after Toni gets to him. Toni notifies the police of the situation. The police leak the story to a tabloid journalist who sensationalizes the story. Toni and Stanley hold a press conference to control damage to the company. Stanley’s son Kit hears about the incident as he watches the TV news coverage of the press conference. Kit Oxenford had been planning to break into the lab that evening to steal the anti-viral serum in a scheme to get out of his massive illegal gambling debt. Less than a year ago Toni caught him stealing funds from the company and his brokenhearted father fired him. Kit justifies this scheme as payback, feeling his father deserves this. As evening falls, Christmas Eve finds the large Oxenford family gathering at their estate as an unexpected snowstorm brews. The storm complicates Kit’s plans to rob the laboratory but he feels he has no option but to continue with the robbery or to be killed for his debts by the mobsters. Therefore, he goes forward with the robbery plans in spite of the blizzard. As the robbery takes place, Kit discovers that instead of stealing the anti-viral serum, the criminals are stealing the virus itself from the lab. He realizes the deadly implications of the theft, but with no way out, he must continue to the landing strip where the buyers for the virus plan to meet them. The whiteout worsens, travel becomes impossible, and Kit and the criminals become stranded at his family’s compound. As family secrets and jealousy are revealed, the climax comes when many individuals come together, trapped by the storm and Kit must choose between himself and his family.
Subject Headings: Animal rights activists, Betrayal, Biological terrorism, Christmas, Competition, Crime and Criminals, Drug/ Pharmaceutical industry, Ex-policewomen, Family Problems, Family Relationships, Hazardous substances, Jealousy, Medicine, Redemption, Romance, Scientific Research, Scotland, Secrets, Security consultants, Stealing, Strong Heroine, Suspense, Terrorism, Television reporters, Vaccines, Viruses

Appeal: fast paced, page-turner, quick read, suspenseful, nail-biting, action-packed, complex plot twists, unexpected turns, rapidly changing situations, tense, plot-centered, dangerous, foreboding, atmospheric, resolved ending, recognizable characters, relatable characters, multiple plot lines, multiple viewpoints, cinematic, foreboding, atmospheric, underlying romantic tension, violence/threat of violence, revengeful, details of biosafety level 4 facilities, details of deadly viruses, details of security and biosecurity, contemporary

Similar Authors and Works (Non-Fiction): The Biology of Doom: America’s Secret Germ Warfare Project by Ed Regis (details of biohazards, details of deadly viruses, details of security and biosecurity, details of strategic responses by the FBI to biohazard threats since 9-11). The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston (details scientist who is developing a drug to destroy the smallpox virus, details of those who want to destroy all known stocks of the virus and those who want to keep some samples alive until a smallpox cure is found, written in a thriller style). Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Program in the World–Told from inside by the Inside by the Man Who Ran It by Ken Alibek (details of biohazards, details of details of deadly viruses, details of security and biosecurity, narrative written in a thriller style).

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer (theme of revenge complex story, multiple plot twists, disparate characters). Day of Absolution by John Gardner (fast-moving thriller, suspense, multiple plots, terrorism, and detection). Red Tide by G.M. Ford (release of chemical and biological weapons is threatened, the main character and police set out to find the terrorists before it’s too late, redemption, thriller, action packed).

Amy

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