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This 454-page thriller, written in the time frame between the outbreak of SARS and swine influenza, puts a new twist on biological warfare. Indeed, what if an insidious crime syndicate were to infiltrate medical research and then, seeking huge profits, practice extortion on a worldwide scale?

Cussler’s best known work, “Raise the Titanic!” (1976) involved the recovery of the famous ocean liner from the bottom of the north Atlantic. His fiction has continued to focus on nautical themes, invariably working in some esoteric historical event — the current work features New England whalers in the 1840s right out of “Moby Dick” — and then tying the remote past to contemporary events.

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