Bantam, May 2002, 24.95, 387 pp.
Dr. Matt Rutledge obviously knows something is wrong in his hometown of Belinda, West Virginia when several of his patients in for not much more than a cold suddenly die with strange symptoms. He believes that the Belinda Coal and Coke Company has poisoned the air, land, or water or a combination of all three with their usual disregard for safety or environmental health. Matt detests the coal company because their practices led to the death of his father, an employee of Belinda Coal and Coke.
Matt digs deeper into why intelligent people are suddenly babbling and have unsightly lumps on their bodies. He learns that former Belinda residents also have died from the same mysterious ailment. He soon finds out that while he practiced medicine elsewhere, his hometown was the test site of a supervaccine whose consequences are starting to appear. That elixir is about to be approved for use across the country; a few deaths in backwater West Virginia is not enough to stop Omnivax from reaching the marketplace.
Michael Palmer is a sure shot (no pun intended) to have his tenth New York Times best seller with the action-packed FATAL. The story line never slows down from the opening sore throat to the final climax. Readers will admire Matt for his stand against Herculean odds, but what makes him feel real is his deep negative feelings about the coal company. Though the plot seems to go over the edge at times, Mr. Palmer provides a penetrating spot light on America's vaccination program and to a lesser degree the environmental unsafe at any speed record.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner