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Sunday 24 November 2019

‘An Air That Kills’ by Christine Poulson

Published by Lion Fiction,
22 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78264-283-1 (HB)

Katie Flannagan is pleased to be back from Antarctica not least because she can catch up with her friends Daniel, Rachel and their daughter Chloe.  Katie met them through her work as a researcher in blood disorders, as Chloe has the rare and serious blood condition DBA. Now Rachel is expecting another child.  There is an outside chance that the new baby may be a match for Chloe which could alleviate her illness. Katie is also pleased that Justin whom she met when she was out in Antarctica has been in touch to arrange a meeting. 

When she arrives for dinner at Daniel and Rachel’s house, she is greeted by ‘surprise’ from Daniel and there is the wealthy entrepreneur Lyle Lynstrum. Over supper he says he believes that there is likely soon to be a flu pandemic with the potential to kill billions and there is a need to research the mechanism which causes the virus to jump from the insect species to the humans. Basically, he has invested a great deal in the research, which is set up at Debussy Point, off the coast of North Devon, but he feels there is something wrong, but he can’t put his finger on what.  One of the anomalies is a high turnover of lab technicians which while for seemingly perfectly good reasons, still seems high. Katie offers to go undercover to see what she can suss out, but Lyle says no. She is totally overqualified for a job as lab technician.  But Katie says, well she is currently unemployed. When another lab technician gives notice, Lyle accepts Katies offer to go undercover to see if she can pinpoint the problem. 

For Katie it’s a job well below her capabilities and all she has to do is take an opportunity to check the work being done and see if she can spot any irregularities.  However, the reader is aware from the opening of the book that there is someone who has access to the high security lab and who has deadly intent. 

She receives a warm welcome from Casper Delaney, the head of the facility.  Her accommodation is pleasant rather like a holiday let.  On her first morning there after collecting her security pass from Siobhan, she meets Maggie in the malaria lab, the glamorous Claudia for whom she will be directly working, Tarquin, and Bill whose main interest is moths.  On her second day she is introduced to Professor Gemma Braithwaite who makes it clear that a mere lab technician is beneath her.  Katies wonders if Gemma’s rudeness might have contributed to the high turnover of lab technicians.  Katies tries to discover by casual probing why her predecessor Sophie left so suddenly but the answers she receives are vague offering no concrete reason. 

Then Katies decides on another way to check the work.  Unexpectedly, one of her colleague’s is struck down with a mystery illness. Could a deadly virus have escaped?  Are they all at risk?  

This is an on the edge of your seat read and is highly recommended for lovers of mystery.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Christine Poulson writes, I was a respectable academic, lecturing in art history at a Cambridge college before I turned to crime. My first three novels featured literary historian and accidental sleuth, Cassandra James.  I then wrote Invisible, a standalone suspense novel. Something that I didn’t expect when I started writing crime fiction was that other crime writers would be such good fun and so convivial. Christine’s latest series features Katie Flanagan. There are two books in the series. Read a review of the first here.

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