A Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer ($2.99)
Palmer (The Last Surgeon) offers a nifty plot premise in this high-concept medical thriller, but a plethora of subplots distracts from the more interesting primary issue. As the U.S. president, James Allaire, is beginning his State of the Union address, a number of small containers of a viral agent explode and infect the more than 700 people, including every important member of the government except the director of homeland security, who have gathered in the House chamber. The Capitol must be sealed off and the infected audience held inside until a cure for the disease can be found. The plotters behind the attack, a group of domestic terrorists known as Genesis, demand, among other things, that the government abolish the Patriot Act and cease unchecked spying on ordinary Americans. Overblown prose does little to make the implausible scenario more believable. Readers with a low tolerance for the hyperbolic are advised to give this one a pass. (Feb.)
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