White Plague by James Abel (Joe Rush #1)

Last Updated on August 22, 2023

White Plague is the first book in the Joe Rush thriller series by James Abel. I got excited about the book since it incorporates two main genres that I love in thrillers: medical thrillers and military/adventure thrillers. Robin Cook, Robert Ludlum, James Rollins are just some of the names that come to mind when I’m about to pick up a book with a description that touches these topics.

The premise is very intriguing. A technologically advanced sub, U.S.S. Montana is literally stuck in the icy waters of the Arctic, with the crew on the verge of dying due to some unknown reason. There is only one person able to help bring the crew to safely: dr. Joe Rush, who is about to retire. He is gently coerced into giving it one last shot to bring the Montana and its crew back to the safety of friendly waters.

Joe Rush is a gifted marine, medical doctor and bio-terror expert, who due to his particular expertise might be indeed the only one able to figure out why the crew is dying, what type of virus or bacteria are they plagued with.

What he doesn’t know is that there is a powerful political war game involved, with multiple parties wanting to get their greedy little hands on the submarine and what it contains, supposedly in the form of advanced military technology that could put any country that has it way above the others.

There is a time urgency to Joe getting fast to the sub, not only due to the fact that the people on it are dying, but also to be the first before anyone else – including the Chinese.

The story is fast paced, there is a lot of action and suspense going on. In these types of politically driven stories, there is always the main protagonist who is trying to save the world, with a very limited amount of genuine information, the most of it being withheld from him for, well, political reasons.

And Jo is again, a typical example of such a hero. He has no idea what he stumbled upon, but has the guts to go forward nonetheless, and has the strength to ignore – even go against strict orders from his superiors (who have of course, a very hidden and powerful agenda).

As time goes by, little by little Jo learns to read the signs and eventually figures it all out. Now he has to run against time – not only from the Chinese, the virus and the extreme cold, but also from his own government, whose secret is so damning that they’d rather let everyone, including Joe and his team be gone forever…

While it did take me a little while to get into it, once I got past the rather slow beginning, I really enjoyed what came next, and got intrigued enough to want to turn page after page to see how the story unfolds. Secrets got revealed one after the other, and while some were easy to figure out, others left me scratching my head and thinking ‘wow’.

The characters were rather well fleshed out, although I did feel the relationship of Joe and Karen sort of lacking, especially at the end of the book, which will be picked up hopefully in book #2.

My small (and really the only) gripe is the writing. There is a strangeness to the sentences and phrases that I couldn’t help but notice. Some sentences ran a quarter page long on my Kindle app (not kidding), and I had to read twice the phrase again to figure out what the author was trying to say.

Here is such an example (and at least the first few chapters is full with these long run-on sentence  phrases).

“There, three generations of Rushes worked on the assembly line of Brady Textiles, making Army uniforms in World War One, Air Force uniforms in World War Two, and Naval uniforms during Vietnam, but by the Iraq War, Brady had moved operations to Honduras, where they paid workers less, and the men and some women in my family had become the electricians, plumbers, and roofers maintaining the second homes of people from Boston or New York who summered in our region, and went home to their condos and Long Island suburbs when the air grew chilly each fall, and I boarded a rusted yellow bus and rode to a country school where, if we wanted to keep our football team equipped, our moms baked pies and we kids sold door to door to the college professors in wealthier Williamstown.”

Yes, that was one sentence with at least 4 separate ideas that could have been easily split into shorter, more digestible sentences.

Initially I thought this is the author’s debut novel, but it seems James Abel is a pseudonym for Robb Reiss. I would have rather overlooked the many run-on sentences and choppy writing in the book for a debut novel, but for an established author, I’m a bit disappointed.

Having said that, I did notice that as the story progressed, the writing started to flow much smoother, making for a very enjoyable and quite captivating read. So much in fact, that now I’m looking forward to read the second book in the series, called Protocol Zero, to see what adventures will Joe Rush get into again. And I bet he won’t retire any time soon.

Overall White Plague was a pleasant and suspenseful read, and I have high hopes for the second book in the series.

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