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Microbes deadly threat to security

Nail-biting thriller brings the mystery

By Nicholas Addison Thomas

For The Free Lance-Star

IF YOU BITE your nails, you might want to hold off on your next nibble. Instead, go Rumpelstiltskin and grow those bad boys out—you’ll have plenty of time to gnaw on them while reading James M. Tabor’s “The Deep Zone,” an ultra-suspenseful read that’s guaranteed to keep your heartbeat in overdrive.

In this, one of the year’s best thrillers, we follow microbiologist Hallie Leland, a sharp-tongued smarty who has been unjustly fired from her super-secret government lab.

An avid “caver” (spelunking is for beginners), the adventure-seeking scientist goes on to find herself a slice of Florida heaven, where instead of population-decimating microbes she fights off sunburns and obnoxious tourists en route to local dives.

All is gravy until the White House informs her that the country she swore to protect is faced with the biggest threat since Pearl Harbor. Specifically, a mysterious, lightning-fast epidemic that’s killing soldiers in Afghanistan. In days, the deadly virus will breach America’s borders, threatening the lives of millions.

Tasked with re-entering the world of high-security science—filled with its own grab bag of secrets—Hallie must commandeer a ragtag team of adventurers, scientists and weapons experts in the hopes of finding the solution to the impending doom.

In this case, that solution is an extremely rare organism needed to create antibiotics. The only problem: It’s located in the world’s deepest cave, protected by drug lords, trigger-happy rebels and a jungle as thick as your mother-in-law’s meat loaf.

Time is of the essence as Hallie and her team journey to the Mexican supercave in hunt for the life-saving jelly substance. Along the way, they come across murderous cartels, lakes of acid, pits as seemingly deep as the universe, and traitors above and below the earth’s crust who threaten to derail the expedition.

Known for his thoroughly researched thrillers, Tabor is at it again with a top-notch book that uses caving as a backdrop to a plot rife with bioterrorism, governmental ballyhoo and kick-butt protagonists who make Sylvester Stallone look like an eighth-grade pipsqueak.

To say this read is overwhelmingly enjoyable is an understatement—it’s outright addictive. The characters are engaging and fully developed, the action is as unique as it is mesmerizing, and the twists and turns rival those of Six Flags. If you’re a fan of high-intensity fiction, you’ve met your match.

Nicholas Addison Thomas is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.


By James M. Tabor

(Ballantine, $26, 432 pp.)


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